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UT’s Office of Sustainability has been named a finalist in the sixth annual Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards, which honor the best environmental efforts among colleges and universities that have signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

UT was recognized for innovation and advanced leadership in sustainability, climate mitigation, and resilience. Awards are given based on demonstrated advancements in innovation, embedded opportunities, and student preparedness with relation to sustainability and climate action. UT is the only school in both the state of Tennessee and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) to ever be selected as a finalist.

“Having been selected as a finalist is a resounding affirmation that UT is a leader in sustainability across the nation and, in particular, within the SEC,” said UT Sustainability Manager Preston Jacobsen. “We are currently a leader in green power purchasing, ranked eleventh in the nation, and ranked second in the nation for Game Day Zero Waste efforts, but our sights are set much higher.”

Since 1993, Second Nature has worked with more than 4,000 faculty and administrators at hundreds of colleges and universities to increase sustainability efforts in higher education. In 2006, twelve college and university presidents began the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The next year, this group invited their peers nationwide to participate. UT signed the commitment September 11, 2007.

Second Nature initiated the annual Climate Leadership Awards in 2010 to recognize ACUPCC institutions for their innovation and excellence.

“We have and will continue to work toward providing our students with the best educational opportunities, be it research or experiential learning, all within a setting that supports our local environment,” Jacobsen said.

The most innovative university program to date is the Smart Communities Initiative (SCI), designed to engage faculty and students in real-world problem solving aimed at increasing economic viability, environmental sustainability, and social integrity of an area.

In addition to SCI, more than 200 courses have been identified to focus on sustainability, and the university offers a sustainability major, which launched in fall 2012. Other initiatives include the Green Revolving Fund and a student environmental initiatives fee, enabling the campus to conduct more research and sustainable projects in the future.

“This designation is not easily achieved, and it stems from the work performed not only by our office but more so by the students, faculty, and staff that continue to make UT a more sustainable place to live, learn, and work,” Jacobsen said.

Learn more about the Office of Sustainability here.