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George Hodan / CC 2.0

Columbia University released its first-ever environmental sustainability plan on Friday, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported.

The proposal comes after years of preparation and aims to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by 35 percent over the next three years. 

Released a day before Earth Day, the document highlights transportation, energy use and waste disposal as target areas for improvement. The bulk of Columbia’s environmental changes will be made to systems in university buildings such as heating and cooling. 

More specific goals include rethinking the product and packaging options for vendors that sell to Columbia and “incentivizing low-emission modes of travel for the 60 percent of University affiliates who have a non-walking commute.” The plan calls for the creation of public transit subsidies and an investigation into ferry service options between West Harlem and New Jersey.

This sustainability plan follows the set of sustainability principles Columbia released in September, which focused on "three main objectives: to advance Columbia's global dissemination of knowledge related to sustainability and the environment, to develop and implement measurable sustainability initiatives, and to create a ‘culture of sustainability’ on campus.”

Using these principles, faculty, staff and students developed the new plan through focus groups. Columbia also used data to quantitatively determine which areas of the university should be targeted for change. 

The university will continue crowdsourcing ideas for improving sustainability through the hashtag #sustainablecolumbia, said Columbia's Office of Communications

“Through our actions, policies, and behavior, we provide a model for the kind of global response we seek," Columbia President Lee Bollinger said.

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