Dear Members of the Barnard Community, 

Even as we return to campus after so long apart and enjoy the beauty of fall in New York, we must not forget the numerous climate catastrophes that played out relentlessly across the globe this summer – from fires to floods to intense heat - disproportionately impacting frontline communities. Little more than a week ago, 13 New Yorkers died during Hurricane Ida, a majority of whom were low-income immigrants renting basement apartments. In this context of both joy and sorrow, let us return to some of our familiar routines while also committing to the deep and necessary changes to build a more sustainable and just campus – and world. 

I write to outline Barnard’s climate action priorities for the coming year, and to identify opportunities for you to join this work.

Pathway to Net Zero Emissions  

Barnard is defining a pathway to net zero emissions. We have engaged Energy Strategies, along with Salas O’Brien, to help us identify clear strategies, timelines, and order of magnitude costs. To date, Barnard has reduced carbon intensity by 37% since 2005 levels. This is progress, but there is still much work to be done; defining a pathway to net zero intersects with the Barnard Year of Science by placing campus planning and operations in the context of global science-based emissions reductions targets, and our upcoming design process for the reimagining of Altschul Hall will be an opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint significantly and demonstrate our campus commitment to sustainability.

Last year, partners from across campus came together to develop Barnard’s Circular Campus, a holistic, systems-based framework designed to reduce emissions and waste, reduce costs, transform consumption patterns on campus, and increase access and affordability for students. One key component of the Circular Campus is Rheaply, Barnard’s new internal reuse platform; log in with your Barnard ID to post and exchange materials and supplies.

Upcoming Events

The Circular Campus framework is just one of many points of intersection between emissions reduction goals and social justice: Barnard is also hosting a New York City Climate Week panel discussion at 4pm on Thursday, September 23rd on the intersection between emissions reduction, circularity, and environmental justice.

To take action beyond our campus, please join the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion and Barnard Sustainability on September 28th for a discussion of practical steps for environmental justice advocacy in New York, led by WeAct for Environmental Justice.

Commit to Action

None of Barnard’s work to date on climate action and climate justice could be done without the active participation of departments spanning the campus. From the leadership of the purchasing office in spearheading an office supply giveaway, to the partnership of Access Barnard in launching Rheaply, to the support for climate pedagogy from the Center for Engaged Pedagogy, climate action at Barnard moves forward because of each of you. If your office or department would like to raise your level of engagement, the Office of Sustainability offers a facilitated workshop series designed to help you develop internal mission-based goals specific to your work. Join the Campus Community Commitment and learn more about how your office, department, or student organization can integrate climate action and environmental justice into your work. Email for more information about joining the commitment.

Climate in the Classroom

And of course, our commitment is rooted in the explorations we undertake in our classrooms. Barnard offers 65 courses across 56% of departments that touch on questions of climate change, environmental justice, sustainability, and related topics. One of the most powerful sights of this season is seeing students come together to explore climate change from perspectives as diverse as human rights, design, paleoclimatology, dance, biology, and religion. This spring, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy will again host a workshop series - in the meantime, if you would like to discuss expanding your course modules to tackle climate topics, please reach out to, or set up a one-on-one consultation with the CEP. 

Despite the challenges ahead, with shared commitment we can make the changes we need and support our students in the fight for a just and sustainable future.

Sandra Goldmark