The EU Mission of the UN is the latest to be Certified in Lehigh’s Partnership for Sustainable UN Missions

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From Left, Keegan Shealer, Audrey McSain, Emily Michnowski ‘24, Ambassador Olof Skoog, Maia Hawkins-Litvin ‘25, Ben Murphy-Schmehl ‘24, Bill Hunter, and Elena Reiss.

On May 1st, 2023 the Delegation of the European Union Mission of the United Nations in New York became the 4th mission to be certified by Lehigh University’s Partnership for Sustainable United Nations Missions. Ambassador Olof Skoog, the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, accepted the Gold Certificate on behalf of the EU Delegation on campus. 

Lehigh University Partnership for Sustainable United Nations Missions, in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is a voluntary initiative designed for Missions based in New York to integrate sustainable practices into the workplace. Missions have the opportunity to work with Lehigh’s student team to identify tangible ways to bring the Greening the Blue framework into their offices. Participating Missions establish themselves as global leaders by setting the precedent for sustainable change.

The award was presented to Ambassador Skoog by a group of five Lehigh students, Ben Murphy-Schmehl ‘24, Emily Michnowski ‘24, Maia Hawkins-Litvin ‘25, Zach Mester ‘24, & CJ Marina ‘24. The students were all specifically selected to be a part of the LU Partnership for Sustainable UN Missions program. 

The student team guided the EU mission through the certification process, which began in October of 2022 and included a visit to the EU’s Mission in NYC in November.

The impact of the mission’s sustainability efforts includes averting 2,878.65 total metric tons of C02, which is the equivalent of 685 cars being taken off the road. 603.21 kilograms of paper/plastic waste was avoided, which is the approximate weight of one Alaskan Moose. Additionally, 2,080 sheets of paper will be saved annually, which is about a 10-inch high stack of paper.

In regard to participation in the program, Ambassador Olof Skoog stated, “With its European Green Deal, the EU has set an ambitious roadmap to combat climate change. I strongly believe that this concerns everyone and that, in this spirit, as Europeans, we should lead by example. So a year ago, when my Danish colleague, Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann, offered to nominate our Delegation to take part in the Greening of the UN Missions Program I was happy to take on the challenge. Throughout the year we were impressed by the level of commitment and knowledge of the students and faculty involved. It has been a very positive, meaningful, and in many ways eye-opening experience for us”.

Lehigh’s partnership with the UN began in 2004 when Lehigh became the sixth university in the world to gain Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status with the United Nations (UN). This designation gives the university rare access to the world’s largest intergovernmental organization. 

Each year more than 1,000 Lehigh faculty, staff, and students attend UN conferences, high-level briefings, and private meetings with ambassadors and other UN officials in New York City and on campus. 

Leveraging this extensive relationship, in 2018 the Lehigh University Partnership for Sustainable UN Missions was founded in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme to assist Missions in identifying opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to fostering sustainable practices in their NYC facilities.

Dr. Bill Hunter, the Director of the Office of Fellowship Advising and UN Programs, notes that the relationship with the UN EP is critical to the creation of and success of this program. “We are so fortunate to have the United Nations Environment Programme as a partner in this evaluation process. They provide critical connections to UN Missions that make this all possible.

LU’s Partnership for Sustainable UN Missions not only gives Missions a platform to become leaders of sustainability, but it also allows them to adopt practices shown to reduce operating costs over time, if not immediately. Additionally, partnering with Lehigh’s team provides an opportunity for Missions to demonstrate their country’s commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) in a tangible, local way.

“Lehigh is honored to be the only university in the world working on such an important project. It provides a unique practical experience for our students and the Missions find the certification process to be very beneficial,” said Hunter. “There's no better way to take theory to practice than the Greening of the UN Missions project. Students take what they have learned in the classroom and get hands-on high-level experience working on sustainability issues with some of the world's top diplomats”.

To date, the collective environmental impact by certified Missions includes 14.1 thousand metric tons of CO2 mitigated per year, 7.5 thousand kilograms of waste diverted per year, and 2.7 million sheets of paper saved per year. 

In regards to participating in the program, Zabrina Kjeldsen, Deputy Head of Administration for the Royal Danish Consulate General & The Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations, New York said, “Being a part of the Greening of the United Nations Missions program was a crucial tool in order to reach our goals of becoming one of the most sustainable representations in New York City. Lehigh and their skilled students have created a certification process that is very easy to not only be a part of, but also to implement. We strongly recommend other missions become part of, and also implement this programme.”

This year the university is celebrating its 5th year operating the Sustainable United Nations Missions program and in 2024 the university will celebrate its 20th year of partnership with the United Nations. 

“In the Office of Sustainability, we often say that small, individual actions build into bigger, broader impacts,” said Audrey McSain, Sustainability Director at Lehigh University. “By expanding sustainable operations and initiatives on the Mission-level, the UN epitomizes that very concept. The program has gained quite a bit of momentum and we are thrilled to continue our work and aid the UN Missions in their endeavor to ‘Green the Blue’.”

In the fall of 2023, the Missions of Germany and The Netherlands will begin the sustainability evaluation process with Lehigh’s student team. Other Missions interested in participating should contact Dr. Hunter at