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Southern Miss Climate Action Plan Outlines Strategy for Achieving Sustainability PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Contact David Tisdale, 601.266.4499   

A roadmap directing The University of Southern Mississippi to its goal of a carbon -free campus by 2050 has been produced through a collaborative effort by faculty, staff and students.

The Climate Action Plan (CAP) is the framework for the university’s vision of a campus that follows best practices in environmentally sensitive construction, operations and educational initiatives, said Larry Lee, the university’s chief sustainability officer. The plan follows Southern Miss President Martha Saunders’ signing of the American Colleges and University Presidents Climate Action in 2006 and was developed by the University Climate Commitment Council (UC3).

“Within the first year of signing that document, we put in place a structure to oversee the process of becoming a sustainable university, and the Climate Action Plan (CAP) outlines that structure with a set of targeted actions,” Lee said. “It will get us to carbon neutrality while saving us one-third of a billion dollars.”

Those actions include community involvement and education that creates and nurtures a culture of sustainability; conservation and optimization; green building; and investment in strategies that include emissions reductions.

"This plan is a clear and thorough outline of how the university will become the sustainable institution we desire to be,” said Dr. Saunders. “I applaud the hard work of those involved in this project and everyone working to create and nurture an environmentally responsible culture at Southern Miss."

The production of the CAP included assistance from Aramark’s Division of Energy and Sustainability, which helped the UC3 conduct a four-month study of the university’s energy consumption and infrastructure. Currently, approximately 70 percent of the university’s carbon emissions come from energy used on campus (electrical and stationary sources) and about 28 percent from transportation, primarily from commuters.

Bryan Billings, director of planning, contracts and emergency preparedness for Southern Miss Gulf Coast, serves as chairman of the UC3 which includes representation from all segments of the university. He praised the work of Lee and his committee colleagues for their efforts to collect and verify data in the production of the report.

“It gives us not only a 'road map' with the steps necessary to meet our President's Climate Committee goals, but also solid benchmarks for measuring our success in the future,” he said.  

Already, the university is setting the pace in Mississippi in both the public and private sector as the leader in sustainability and in its implementation of energy mitigation strategies, resulting in a seven percent decrease in emissions. For its efforts the university was recently named one of the country’s most environmentally responsible facilities by Princeton Review. Those strategies include:

* Creation of the UC3 to foster an environment of sustainability through initiatives involving diverse groups across campus composed of faculty, staff and students.

Examination of all campus structures to identify and implement energy conservation infrastructure. In new construction, the university Century Park living/learning complex meets Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, believed to be the first in the state. 

Adoption by the university’s grounds staff of new maintenance strategies that include using equipment producing lower emissions, organic fertilizers and rain sensor technology and irrigation techniques to reduce water consumption.

Implementation of energy-saving building operation tools such as programmable thermostats, lighting controls, as well as sustainable computer operations by the university’s iTech Department.

New food service practices implemented by Eagle Dining’s Green Thread and EcoEagle that include tray-less dining and reusable to-go containers in the Fresh Food Company.

Campus-wide recycling initiatives run by student organizations; in the last two years, more than 700,000 pounds of recyclable material was collected, up from an annual total of 66,000 pounds.

A more pedestrian-friendly campus and use of shuttles for transportation to and from residence halls and nearby apartment complexes can also help the university meet sustainability goals, Lee said. He also envisions the university offering sustainability classes in the future, as higher education institutions across the country begin making the subject part of their curriculum.

“We’re looking at the world through different colored glasses now,” he said. “We have to make sustainability a part of our cognitive process, and to do that we need to reach every person who goes to school here and works here to educate them about these strategies.”

Learn more about the new Climate Action Plan and the university’s sustainability efforts at

Adam Brandt deposits cardboard furniture packing into a recycling bin outside of Century Park Thursday on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus. In the last two years, more than 700,000 pounds of recyclable material was collected at the university, up from a previous annual total of 66,000 pounds, due to the university’s efforts to foster a more environmentally friendly culture on the campus. (University Communications photo by David Tisdale) 

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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