"All that you touch, You Change. All that you Change, Changes you.”  - Octavia Butler


Dear Barnard Community,

Today marks the beginning of New York Climate Week, when leaders, activists, businesses, and policy makers from around the world will again convene — virtually, this year — to try to make meaningful strides towards a sustainable future. This year in particular, we are faced with an overwhelming tide of challenges: dismantling systemic racism, tackling global inequality, the pandemic, and climate fires across the West Coast. Faced with these challenges, can one week, one day, one hour — one person — really make a difference? Will we just add climate change to our mental list of overwhelm? Or will 2020 be the year when we are finally, unavoidably confronted with the knowledge that these destructive forces, these crises — these Big Problems — are deeply interconnected and interrelated? And, with that knowledge, what will we do?

As we confront these questions, we are lucky to be at Barnard, to be part of a community dedicated to tackling the hardest challenges — together. To date, Barnard has done significant work in our research, our teaching, and on our campus to address climate change. Most importantly, we are doing the work to connect the dots between the climate crisis and the many other problems we face: we can’t tackle climate change without confronting racism and inequality. We must return from the pandemic with significant structural and economic changes in place. To that end, the voices of women and BIPOC communities must be central to the work.

Keeping everyone well informed is crucial, and this message contains information that I’m pleased to share with the entire Barnard community. Read on to learn more about:

  • The College’s STARS rating and emissions reduction strategies
  • Circular Campus
  • A new Citizens’ Assembly and Campus Conversation series
  • Curriculum updates
  • Upcoming events and activities


STARS Rating

Last year, Barnard completed the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report, a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. In our first time completing this extremely comprehensive assessment, we are very pleased to announce that Barnard has achieved a silver rating. 

Our STARS report revealed important accomplishments, and also work that remains. We have cut the net greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings by almost 50% since 2005. However, while our electricity figures have improved due largely to purchased renewable energy credits (RECS), our heating and cooling emissions are on the rise. Over 70% of expenditures on cleaning and janitorial products meet recognized sustainability standards. Our sustainability and climate-based academic offerings span the curriculum: 24% of our faculty members in 56% of our academic departments are conducting research that addresses sustainability, climate change, or the environment (43 Professors in 21 departments). 

For STARS, we also looked into areas that go beyond “traditional” sustainability measures assessing not only emissions and waste but diversity, compensation practices, and student involvement. We found that Barnard’s lowest paid, regular, full time employee’s compensation exceeds the living wage calculated by MIT’s Living wage calculator by 150%. Through Barnard’s NSOP programing, all students have participated in cultural competence and social inclusion training and activities.

Armed with a solid assessment of our progress, and the strength of our community, we are launching another ambitious year of programming for climate action.


Circular Campus

This fall and winter, we are working with an outside consultant to refine our emissions reduction strategy, and to develop a timeline for carbon neutrality. We are collaborating with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to launch Circular Campus this spring, a one-of-a-kind initiative to reduce waste, emissions, and costs by promoting a robust ecosystem of reuse and exchange, promoting the purchase of locally and sustainably sourced new items, and increasing access and affordability for our students. Interested community members can join a working group this fall to build the Circular Campus framework. 


Citizens’ Assembly and Campus Conversation Series

We hope you will participate in our new Citizens’ Assembly and Campus Conversation series to advance and refine the goals of Barnard’s Climate Action Vision, released in December 2019. All students, faculty and staff are all invited to these open conversations, and may apply to join the Citizens’ Assembly. Assembly members will receive a stipend, and will attend all three conversations and distill the voices of the community into clear recommendations in three areas:

  • Sustainability & Access: Affordability (10/13, 6pm): 
    How can we reframe our understanding of & practices of sustainability to be more inclusive? How can we use sustainability frameworks to support student access to educational opportunities, for example, access to all majors?
  • Climate in the Curriculum: Foundations (10/28, 6pm): 
    How should climate change be represented in the required curriculum? What skills and knowledge base should every student have upon graduation to ensure a habitable planet? 
  • Carbon Neutrality: Air Travel (11/18, 6pm):
    Travel emissions, which make up ~⅓ of Barnard’s carbon footprint, have steeply declined since we all went virtual in March. How can we maintain the reduced emissions from the lack of air travel during Covid in a post-Covid world? Should we consider offsets? 


Curriculum Updates

The Consortium of Critical Interdisciplinary Studies (CCIS) will soon introduce a new interdisciplinary minor and concentration in Environmental Humanities, which will bring together students in the humanities and STEM to collectively focus on the ways in which issues surrounding environmentalism, global warming, land- and water-rights activism, and non-human rights intersect with race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Anthropology is offering a new specialized major track in Political Ecology, focussing on fields relevant to environmental justice, climate change, and sustainability. 

And we welcome two new faculty members whose work touches on climate and related topics, Marisa Solomon in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Angelo Matteo Caglioti in History. Our faculty continue to lead the way in research and courses, with offerings across the curriculum. This semester, Professor Logan Brenner in the Environmental Science Department is teaching the Workshop in Sustainable Development, a course where students form a consulting team to tackle real-world issues for external clients. Professor Terryanne Maenza-Melch, also of the Environmental Science Department, has made remote learning an opportunity to reimagine her Introduction to Environmental Science course. Students around the world and all over the US will study their local local water bodies to create a global database offering insights into common issues around the globe and how they relate to local policies. Professor Irena Haiduk in Art History, in her course “Design Designing,” is teaching students to use design to envision a new, sustainable world.


Upcoming Events and Activities

We have some lighter fare as well: A game night, inspired by Sasha Weber ‘22 and alumna Isadora Nogueira ‘20, where students can demo Energetic, a new game that allows players to rebuild the New York grid, and a design contest with the Design Center for students in the Women of Color support group. 


Closing Thoughts

Climate change — and the many crises with which it intersects — can seem impossible to face. It can feel hard to do the work when we know members of our community who have been impacted by illness, by unemployment, by the raging wildfires in the west, when we see inequity and racism all around us, and when our nation and our families are facing such severe tests. So, how will we move forward — in this climate week, and far beyond? Playwright August Wilson wrote: “What we do now becomes history by which our grandchildren will judge us.” And we are lucky, at Barnard, that what we do now, we will do together.

If you have questions or want to discuss how you can get involved in ways not mentioned here or on the website (which we regularly update with the latest information), contact Barnard Sustainability at green@barnard.edu


Sandra Goldmark
Director of Campus Sustainability & Climate Action
Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre