Willsboro farm

Sustainability

The challenges facing our planet are daunting. The human population is predicted to surpass nine billion by 2050. Our climate is changing. Worldwide water availability and quality are of increasing concern. Change is vital if we want to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES), which supports the research, teaching and outreach mission of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), is uniquely positioned to contribute to sustainability at Cornell on a large scale. We are committed to being part of the solution to pressing local and global issues—which is why we have adopted a “Culture of Sustainability,” serving as a model to others.

Project Highlights

Sustainability initiatives on campus, research farms and greenhouses improve our bottom line and the environment.

  • Retrofit greenhouses with new control and lighting systems, reducing energy consumption by up to 40%
  • Upgrade 22 growth chambers, reducing energy consumption by 54% and slashing CO2 emissions by 447 tons per year
  • Operate Cornell’s 4-acre compost facility, where 6,000 tons of waste each year is turned into high-quality compost
  • Research on bioenergy – biomass production, pyrolysis and direct combustion
  • Coordinate recycling of agricultural plastics, from greenhouse pots to row covers
  • Afforestation of marginal land – increase carbon sequestration and biodiversity
  • Supply Cornell Dining with over 15,000 lbs of produce/year 
  • Promote sustainable practices among hundreds of facility users by setting high standards for stewardship and providing knowledge-based information and incentives for positive action
  • Develop sound agricultural practices to improve long-term soil fertility and reduce erosion, nutrient leaching, and the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides

Sustainability Action Team (SAT)

Winter BreakThe Sustainability Action Team is a staff-led initiative, that relies on the experience of office, farm, greenhouse and growth chamber staff to improve sustainability throughout CUAES. SAT members are empowered to identify and implement sustainable practices that reduce costs and our carbon footprint while improving the quality of the work place. This highly efficient team of dedicated staff members, now in its sixth year, also models sustainable practices for others and helps keep sustainability at the forefront by communicating with colleagues, the college's leadership and those who use our facilities.
Recent actions include:

  • Close an underutilized farm lab during the winter, saving over $6,000/year 
  • Plant a windbreak to reduce building heating needs by 20%
  • Develop a sustainable turf management plan to reduce mowing 100 acres by 30%
  • Reuse greenhouse pots to save $6,000/year
  • Repurpose over 1000 tons of stream bed material and asphalt millings for farm road repairs

Sustainability Action Team poster (pdf)

Sustainability at Cornell