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Why sustainability is important to Lehigh University

Climate change and the health of the environment as a whole present some of the most pressing issues of our time. Overwhelming scientific evidence suggests the impacts of climate change will be dire if left unaddressed. Universities must play a key role in building a better global future and Lehigh is uniquely positioned to make significant contributions to address this enormous challenge.

With 2,358 acres, more than 160 buildings, and approximately 7,000 students, Lehigh recognizes its responsibility to be a model sustainable campus and contribute to the health of our planet.  With the introduction of its 10-year Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030, Lehigh commits to focusing on the vision of an inclusive Lehigh community where sustainability is an integral part of the institutional ethos.

As an institution, we strive to create a campus that merges environmentally responsible solutions with equitable community practices.  Through institutional programs and policies that integrate sustainability into work, research, and learning--such as signing a virtual power purchasing agreement to buy renewable energy, establishing a LEED silver or equivalent standard for new buildings, reducing total waste generated, integrating sustainability into the curriculum and research opportunities and purchasing a larger percentage of local/community-based, fair trade, ecologically sound and humane food.

Lehigh seeks and embraces new solutions that support long-term sustainable change.  In addition to improving sustainability efforts on campus, Lehigh works hard to integrate sustainability education and engagement inside and outside the classroom. Lehigh develops future leaders who will strive to solve pressing global climate challenges for years to come.

One of the university’s visions is a commitment to social, environmental, and economic sustainability.  We recognize that we must combine our individual and collective energy to coordinate efforts across campus for the benefit of Lehigh and the community at large. 

Social Equity

Lehigh recognizes it has a responsibility to the university community and to the south Bethlehem community in which we reside. We understand how our decisions and practices affect the community surrounding us and we work to promote the best interests of our neighbors. We strive to create a vibrant, diverse, and healthy community.

Environmental Stewardship

Lehigh is committed to sustainable environmental practices, promoting interdisciplinary research in sustainable development and green engineering, and reducing our environmental footprint. We strive to reduce the amount of waste we generate, to be smart consumers of water and energy, and to protect and restore the surrounding ecosystem.

Economic Prosperity

Economic sustainability recognizes that there is more than just a single financial bottom line, but rather a triple bottom line. Developing sustainably recognizes that economic development and prosperity must not happen at the expense of our natural environment or our community health.

Office of Sustainability

The Office of Sustainability encourages and facilitates interdisciplinary sustainability efforts of students, faculty, and staff and initiates transformative programs that contribute to a sustainable Lehigh. Through the engagement of stakeholders at all levels of the University and across the community, the Office strives to address issues of sustainability in daily life (recycling, green building, composting), while simultaneously seeking to influence the long-term sustainability of Lehigh University. By introducing long-term planning for  institutional policies and programs that integrate sustainability into work, research, and learning, the Office works to instill sustainable best practices across the university with the goal of significantly reducing Lehigh’s environmental footprint.