Princeton defines sustainability research as scholarship that seeks to investigate and understand the environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts of natural resource use, and to develop practices that conserve these resources when pursued over generations.
Princeton faculty are leading the way in the development of solutions to global environmental issues that confront humanity including the accumulation of fossil fuels in the atmosphere, the depletion of natural resources and ecosystems services, the loss of biodiversity, and the spread of infectious disease.
Research projects in laboratories and at field sites on campus and around the globe are advancing knowledge pertaining to the causes and consequences of environmental degradation while contributing to sustainable solutions for global, regional, and local implementation.
PEI’s research enterprise includes several major research centers including the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, PEI’s Energy Group, the Cooperative Institute for Climate Science, and the Center for Biocomplexity.
Through the Grand Challenges Program – an integrated research and teaching program implemented in cooperation with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Woodrow Wilson School – PEI faculty and students are investigating central themes of sustainability including issues in energy and climate, sustainable development in Africa and global health and infectious disease.
Research and Campus Sustainability
PEI faculty, researchers and students are active in projects leading to sustainability improvements on the Princeton campus and work collaboratively with the Office of Sustainability, the University Architect, Dining Services, Facilities and other departments to introduce innovations that conserve energy, reduce waste and embrace sustainability. Sustainability research takes shape through faculty research, coursework, and independent work with implications for improving Princeton’s environmental footprint.
- An Environmental Audit of the Princeton campus conducted in 2000 by students in the Program in Environmental Studies established important benchmarks for campus environmental health.
- Undergraduate students participating in Environmental Studies seminar course Towards an Ethical CO2 Emissions Trajectory for Princeton conducted individual research projects to quantify dimensions of the University’s carbon footprint.
- Students enrolled in introductory laboratory courses for the Program in Environmental Studies regularly contribute to multi-year benchmarking studies that monitor water quality in Carnegies Lake.
- PEI faculty and students actively monitor readings from instrumentation installed on the Butler College green roofs to measure storm water runoff and heat flux with implications for future campus planning and building design.
- PEI sponsored interns, working with dining services, are helping to establish and quantify purchasing metrics for sustainable food purchases.