Duke University has tackled the climate crisis by using its education and research platform to foster leadership and innovation. It has modeled responsible operations by achieving a carbon-neutral campus, woven a culture of sustainability throughout the institution, and ensured a climate-literate student body that carries this knowledge and experience forward in their lives.


Sustainable Duke’s mission is educating and empowering the Duke Community to create a more sustainable campus future through social, economic, and environmental change on our campus and beyond.


Sustainable Duke started in 2004 when Duke hired its first sustainability staff member. The senior leadership solidified Duke's broad sustainability commitment in 2005 with the development of the Duke University Environmental Policy. The next large milestone was in 2007, when President Richard Brodhead signed the American College and University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This led to the development of Duke's first Climate Action Plan and the setting of goal for the university to become climate neutral by 2024.

From then, the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) was created in 2009 to develop and enact the university's carbon offset strategy. The DCOI has developed a variety of offsets projects including swine waste-to-energy, residential energy efficiency and renewable energy, and urban forestry. As of 2022, the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative was fully merged into Sustainable Duke with staff continuing to pursue high-quality offsets, while also identifying strategies for Duke University to continue to reduce on-campus emissions.

Climate Neutrality Commitment

Since Duke signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, Duke set the goal to become climate neutral by 2024. This ambitious goal means that Duke will aggressively pursue climate neutrality in 2024 and beyond through a combination of on-campus reductions and carbon offsets. Based on the 2019 Climate Action Plan estimates Duke plans to reduce GHG emissions on campus by 78% and use carbon offsets to reduce the remaining GHG emissions. Beyond 2024, Duke will continue to work to reduce emissions on campus through building energy efficiency, increases in central heating/cooling efficiency, and increase in alternative transportation use.

Duke's Climate Action Plan

Duke University released its first Climate Action Plan in 2009, which provides a road map to becoming climate neutral by 2024 and beyond. Starting in 2017, Duke began updating aspects of the original Climate Action Plan, particularly emission reduction strategies for energy use on campus, employee commuting, and air travel. This 2019 Climate Action Plan Update demonstrates how Duke University strives to reduce emissions by 78% by 2024 compared to the 2007 baseline. 

2019 Climate Action Plan Update

climate action plan 2009 version

Beyond GHG Emissions

Duke University's sustainability goals do not stop at GHG emissions. Duke has also made goals to increase the amount of local and sustainable food in on-campus dining facilities, expand Duke's environmentally preferable purchasing policy, reduce waste going to landfills, and increase the number of students who engage with sustainability related themes in the classroom. Duke's Sustainability Strategic Plan and the Operations section of this website go into detail about what Duke is doing on these topics.