Released on Earth Day, 2019, Princeton University’s Sustainability Action Plan sets ambitious objectives and targets intended to stretch beyond what we know we can accomplish today. Our strategies place a premium on accountability and collaboration across University departments. We will build evidence through academic and operational studies and demonstration projects that use our campus as a lab. These efforts will be paired with communications and outreach initiatives, informed by behavioral science, to engage campus community members and partners, grapple with challenges, and celebrate progress.
The students, staff and faculty who shape the academic, physical and social character of the campus are critical leaders and ambassadors for realizing the culture and sustainability outcomes we seek. As we move toward 2026 and beyond, there will be much that we test and learn and, as new opportunities arise, our strategies will evolve.
To cultivate, embody and celebrate an ethos of sustainability at Princeton University in service to humanity and the world.
Princeton University exemplifies repeatable best practices and innovation in sustainability to accelerate action at all scales, from personal to global.
Scales of Action1
Building on the 2008 Sustainability Plan
The Sustainability Action Plan builds on the 2008 Sustainability Plan, Princeton’s first formal commitment to sustainability, engaging academics, operations and the campus community. The plan established 2020 operational improvement targets and annual performance reporting. It also included piloting our now well-established campus-as-living-lab approach, and cultivating campus engagement through outreach and communications initiatives.
A feature of that plan was target-setting beyond what we knew we could achieve at the time, creating “innovation gaps” that stimulated creative problem-solving. We applied this approach to our first greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of reaching 1990 CO2 levels by 2020 without the purchase of market offsets, and other performance areas.
During the implementation of the 2008 Sustainability Plan, we invited an external review by leaders in the field to conduct a mid-course evaluation.Outcomes from that review included the formation of governance committees to facilitate sustainability planning and decision-making.
Through those committees, institutional Sustainability Principles were adopted in 2014, and Decision-Making Criteria for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction in 2015. Each informed major multi-year endeavors such as the 2026 Campus Plan, and this Sustainability Action Plan.
“Our global environment faces challenges of unprecedented scope and complexity. Princeton can play a leadership role not only by developing innovative solutions through teaching and research, but also by establishing best practices in our campus operations and community behaviors that serve as models for the world. This plan sets out ambitious but attainable goals that will guide us toward a more sustainable future.”
Princeton University President
Christopher L. Eisgruber