President Hemphill signs Carbon Commitment by reaffirming Radford University’s long-standing focus

From left are Associate Professor of Geospatial Science Stockton Maxwell, Ph.D; Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.; and Sustainability Manager Josh Nease.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., signed the Carbon Commitment in November, reaffirming Radford University’s long-standing focus on reaching carbon neutrality and promoting campus-wide sustainability.

The Carbon Commitment recognizes the increasing pace and detrimental impacts of climate change and the need for colleges and universities to exercise leadership in addressing the problem. At the core of the commitment is the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040 and to integrate sustainability and climate action into the University curriculum and culture.

“Sustainability has been a focus of Radford University for many years,” President Hemphill said. “In 2017, when the University developed and adopted core values as part of our strategic plan, sustainability was front and center. 

“In that document, our campus shared a commitment to integrate sustainable practices into all aspects of our operations and engage students across the curriculum to learn, discover and contribute to positive current and future environmental solutions.”

President Hemphill announced the Carbon Commitment on November 13 during his annual State of the University Address, which was delivered virtually this year.

Joining President Hemphill at the signing were Radford University Sustainability Manager Josh Nease and Stockton Maxwell, Ph.D., an associate professor of geospatial science and member of the University’s newly-formed President’s Task Force on Sustainability.

Nease said that the President’s signing of the Carbon Commitment will energize the University’s sustainability and climate action efforts, and “it gives direction to our future,” he noted. “Achieving carbon neutrality is a long process that is full of important steps, and President Hemphill’s signing of the Commitment is the critical first step. We are very excited and inspired by his support.”

On November 13, Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., signed the Carbon Commitment, reaffirming Radford University’s long-standing focus on reaching carbon neutrality and promoting campus-wide sustainability.

President Hemphill established the task force and charged it with developing a new sustainability and climate action plan. The group, made up of Radford University faculty, administrators and a student, aims to complete its plan in time to present it to the Radford University Board of Visitors in September 2021.

“I am confident that this passionate and talented group will put a great deal of time and energy into developing this critical component in order to further Radford University’s long-standing commitment to sustainability,” President Hemphill said.

Within the plan, the President’s Task Force on Sustainability will chart a course for achieving net carbon neutrality that is efficient and financially beneficial, while also increasing the sustainability of University operations across the board.

Radford University has been measuring greenhouse gas emissions and improving sustainability in facilities and operations for years and, in many ways, has already “picked the low-hanging fruit,” Nease said. This new plan will focus on new opportunities and technologies to increase energy efficiency, transition to renewable energy and reduce waste in an equitable, socially responsible and economically viable manner.

Additionally, the plan will recommend strategies for integrating climate action and sustainability into curriculum and campus culture. Radford University students graduate and enter the global workforce each year in a wide variety of fields. By educating students about climate change impacts and solutions, social responsibility and environmental conservation, Radford University students will be strongly positioned to fill leadership roles in a rapidly changing world. 

“The climate crisis will continue to impact current and future generations of Highlanders,” Maxwell said. “With the Sustainability Task Force, we must integrate sustainability across the curriculum to develop solutions and leadership for our environmental challenges. This might include building new majors and minors to meet the growing demands of the environmental job market.” 

Engaging students, as President Hemphill emphasized, as well as the entire Radford University community, has been part of the mission since the University signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2009.

As part of the Carbon Commitment, President Hemphill established the President’s Sustainability Task Force and charged it with developing a new sustainability and climate action plan.

On campus, students have taken leadership responsibilities in the Radford chapter of the Food Recovery Network, delivering meals to a food bank near campus to help fight food insecurity in the City of Radford and the surrounding region.

Students participating in the Food Recovery Network program typically are part of the Sustainability Leadership Team – Internship Program, which gives them hands-on sustainability-related work experience throughout the academic year on various green campus initiatives, such as the annual Earth Week events and the popular Bags to Benches program, which recycles plastic bags into benches to place in green spaces on campus.

In the fall semester of 2019, Radford University Sustainability started Fill it Forward, which provides students, faculty and staff the ability to use refillable water bottles and allows participants to track, through an app, the positive impact they are making on the environment by consuming fewer plastic products.

Radford University faculty have taken an increased role in educating students about environmental and sustainability issues by revising existing, or creating new, curriculum and developing research and project-based learning initiatives that use campus and community partnerships to teach sustainability.

In 2019, the University furthered its commitment to providing innovative sustainability education by establishing the ECO Living-Learning Community. It is an opportunity for students to engage with a like-minded community of people who are committed to education, the environment, adventure, sustainability, leadership and exploring the limitless opportunities of global citizenship.

For all the efforts, students, faculty and the entire Radford University community have put forth, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) recognized and awarded the University with a STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) silver rating in December 2019. Silver is a typical rating for an institution to receive on its first assessment.

The award came after the University’s Sustainability Steering Committee conducted a comprehensive 18-month self-review of campus sustainability initiatives and practices. Radford’s reporting covers everything from greenhouse gas emissions, buildings and operations to research, student engagement and sustainability in the curriculum.

In October 2020, The Princeton Review recognized Radford University’s commitment to sustainable practices in its Guide to Green Colleges: 2021 Edition. It marked the 11th consecutive year Radford has been included in the annual guide.

To learn more about Radford University Sustainability, call 540-831-5223 or send an email to

Dec 8, 2020
Chad Osborne