President’s Climate Commitment

From the President’s Climate Commitment website (

The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

Building on the growing momentum for leadership and action on climate change, the Presidents Climate Commitment provides a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to go climate neutral. The Commitment recognizes the unique responsibility that institutions of higher education have as role models for their communities and in training the people who will develop the social, economic and technological solutions to reverse global warming.

Presidents signing the Commitment are pledging to eliminate their campuses’ greenhouse gas emissions over time. This involves:

  • Completing an emissions inventory
  • Within two years, setting a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral.
  • Taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions.
  • Integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience.
  • Making the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available.

The college and university presidents and chancellors who are joining and leading the Commitment believe that exerting leadership in addressing climate change will stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, attract excellent students and faculty, attract new sources of funding, and increase the support of alumni and local communities.

Picking squash in the garden

The Climate Action Plan was originally written in 2009 when BHSU signed the American College and University President's Climate Commitment. Our goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050. Over five years have gone by since then and we've seen a lot of changes at BHSU. A committee of faculty, staff, and students met over the past year to create this plan to lead us into the next five years. 

Read the full plan and learn about Sustainability at BHSU here: Climate Action Plan 2015 Update.pdf 

For your convenience, we've summarized the new goals contained in the plan below.

2015 Climate Action Plan New Goals:

Responsibility of monitoring progress on these goals lies on the Sustainability Office, housed in the Facilities Services department, and with members of the Sustainability Committee, comprised of students, faculty, and staff. Implementation of these goals will require the support and effort of the entire campus community. 

1. Continue to increase campus energy efficiency by following through with previous and future energy audit recommendations, especially areas where electricity or heating demands can be significantly reduced. Ensure that efficiency measures are well maintained and continue to work properly to save fiscal resources. Complete an upgrade of the building automation system by 2018. 

2. Expand the use of renewable energy by installing a solar array on campus of at least 20-50 kW capacity by 2020. In addition to providing green power the campus, the solar array will be visible, accessible, and provide educational opportunities to students and the greater community on renewable energy technology. 

3. Develop a coalition of faculty by 2017 to work to incorporate sustainability across disciplines throughout campus with the intent to increase sustainability as a learning objective in more undergraduate classes. 

4. Reduce the use of plastic one-use water bottles on campus by increasing the number of filtered water bottle filling stations across campus and providing high quality, affordable water bottles to students starting 2016. As of 2014, we have nine refillable water stations in various buildings across campus. Facilities Services plans to install six more by 2016 and continue to replace traditional water fountains with water bottle refillable stations as replacements are needed. 

5. Develop a comprehensive campus wide landscape management plan by 2018 with a goal to create an Integrated Pest Management plan, reduce diesel and gasoline by 10% or more, and identify a conservative watering and mowing schedule. 

6. Reduce emissions from transportation between the Spearfish campus and the BHSU-Rapid City campus by implementing a pilot transportation program. Feasibility of an electric or hybrid vehicle or regular bus route will be analyzed in 2015 with a goal for implementation by 2017. 

7. Grow recycling program by continuing to increase the amount of recycling bins across campus and find outlets to recycle new materials such as magazines, newspapers, cell phones, and plastic bags with the goal to increase recycling from 40 tons in 2014 to 50 tons per year by 2018. 

8. Approve a tree care plan and commit to a $3 per full time enrolled student annual investment for tree planting and care by applying to the Arbor Day Foundation to become a Tree Campus USA by 2016. 

9. Continue to increase community involvement by working with local partners such as the City of Spearfish, Spearfish Chamber of Commerce, Hills Horizon, Spearfish Bicycle Cooperative, Northern Hills Master Gardeners, Dakota Rural Action, Project Learning Tree, Leave No Trace South Dakota, the Scouting programs, area schools and daycares, local businesses, and other interested organizations, to provide events, workshops, educational opportunities, and debates to develop awareness of sustainability issues on campus and in our greater community and to encourage BHSU students to becomes involved citizens of their communities after graduation. 

10. Continue to increase awareness of the sustainability program on campus through events, social media, Sustainability Day, Earth Day, summer camps, outreach material and publications, and other programming. Establish a place on campus for a permanent sustainability display and utilize BHSU Marketing’s video production abilities to reach more people. 

11. Continue to look for locations in Spearfish to compost post-consumer food waste from the campus dining hall to reduce the gas used to transport the material. These trips are combined with other weekly errands in Rapid City (delivering mail to BHSU-RC and dropping off glass and plastic recycling) however, a smaller vehicle could be used for Rapid City trips if the food waste was not included. This may involve finding an entity willing to take the dehydrated food waste processed by the Somat machine or purchasing equipment and forming a staff and student campus team to compost the material ourselves. 

12. Increase the accuracy of our greenhouse gas report by surveying mileage and frequency of commutes by students, faculty, and staff for the 2015 carbon footprint report. This is an opportunity for a yearly student initiative through the Sustainability Office. 

13. Include sustainability prominently in new student orientation by summer 2016. 

14. Start an Eco-Rep program with a student representative from each residence hall by 2016. Eco-Rep (short for Ecological Representative) is a peer-to-peer sustainability educator program. Eco-Rep programs focus on teaching sustainable living practices using peer education techniques. Student Eco-Reps help to raise awareness about ecological issues, encourage environmentally responsible behavior in their hall mates and peers, and plan related events and activities. 

15. By 2017, offer training and/or other professional development opportunities in sustainability for all staff at least once per year. 

16. Continue to grow the campus vegetable garden by working to increase the produce amount, number of containers in the container garden, and/or volunteers each year. BHSU will continue to search for funds for a strawbale greenhouse to extend the growing season. 

17. Continue Spearfish Local, a BHSU initiative that brings together local producers, distributors, purchasers, and consumers of local food and other locally-sourced products to grow support of the local economy and to work together to achieve greater things than we could as separate organizations. Apply to at least one grant per year to pay for student internships or other opportunities for this program.