In some competitions, an honorable mention means thanks for showing up, and better luck next time. But an honorable mention in the Climate Leadership Awards means much more than that.
For Southern Oregon University, it means finishing in the top six campuses nationwide, and among the top three four-year institutions.
The awards are handed out by Second Nature, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainability in higher education. For 2016, Arizona State University was the top winner among four-year schools. SOU and Huston-Tillotson University, a private school in Austin, Texas, were the two honorable mentions in that category. Overall, 600 institutions participated.
The organization's website notes SOU is the first campus in the country to offset 100 percent of energy use with renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets and is the first university in the nation to offset 100 percent of water use through the purchase of water restoration certificates. In addition, it is the first among Oregon public institutions of higher education to boast a LEED Platinum-Certified building — the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford.
Second Nature credits SOU not only for its dedication to green energy use and green building technologies, but for its course offerings. The university offers a master’s degree in environmental education, bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and policy and outdoor adventure leadership, and more than 148 sustainability-related courses in addition.
SOU deserves credit for its goal of a carbon-neutral campus by 2050. The Second Nature award is recognition of the progress already made.