Georgia Tech developing climate action plan
By Mark Lannaman
The Georgia Institute of Technology, known colloquially as Georgia Tech, is in the midst of planning its future — and is making sure climate action is at the forefront. To prioritize this, Georgia Tech’s Sustainability Next Task Force, created in 2021, is developing the school’s Sustainability Next Plan.
The Sustainability Next Plan has six core focus areas: institute operations, education for sustainable development, leading sustainability research, culture and organization, climate solutions and living learning lab. The plan comes out of the larger, more holistic Georgia Tech Strategic Plan.
Anne Rogers, associate director of the office of campus sustainability feels the Sustainability Next Plan will strengthen Georgia Tech’s position as a leader in the fight against climate change among higher education institutions.
“We know that Georgia Tech has a responsibility to address climate change, and all of higher education is thinking about this,” Rogers said.
Rogers added Georgia Tech president, President Cabrera, has emphasized the school’s position on climate. This led to the development of a Climate Action Plan, to be part of the wider Sustainability Next Plan. The Climate Action Plan, still in development, will be the pathway forward for the school’s climate solutions going forward.
Georgia Tech has made efforts toward sustainable projects in the past. The school’s beacon of sustainability, The Kendeda Building, is one of only 28 buildings in the world to earn a Living Building Challenge certification.
While the Kendeda Building is considered to be the pinnacle of sustainable design, it’s important to also recognize efficient new builds will not maximize climate goals, and that not all new builds will be as green as Kendeda.
“A majority of the buildings at Georgia Tech are existing. So we have to understand that the bigger proportion of carbon impact from our building stock is from existing buildings, not future new buildings,” Rogers said. “We have to think proportionally to the impact that we need to address… a lot of what we know are best practices that we have to understand as part of our climate action planning process.”
Some of these best practices include asking “how do we scale energy efficiency?” and “how do you scale with a limited budget?” according to Rogers.
These questions go back to basic sustainability principles, Rogers argues. Sustainability nowadays, she argues, goes beyond that — and so should the Sustainability Next Plan.
“What we can be thinking about as we think about this plan is how we think about this from an equity, justice, and social sustainability perspective that incorporates health and wellbeing,” Rogers said. “In the 70s when these principles were coming through, we weren’t thinking of those issues as much, but now we have that knowledge, so now we want to add more community input.”
Georgia Tech submits a report every three years to the AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). In its last submission for STARS version 2.2, it earned a Silver rating, valid through May 2024. As of Nov. 14, 143 schools hold a silver rating — the most of any category — followed by Gold at 137, Bronze at 33 and Platinum with 12.
Rogers said the AASHE reporting will be a major component of tracking the school’s sustainability goals.
She hopes the plan will continue to position Georgia Tech as a leader — not only in climate action but for all six focus areas of the Sustainability Next Plan.