Students publish first report into DKU campus sustainability

A student research team has published Duke Kunshan University’s first sustainability report in collaboration with faculty to improve the green credentials of its campus.

The detailed 68-page analysis by student club Sustainable DKU found that the LEED certified-campus performed strongly in areas such as the energy-efficiency of its buildings and water management through its rainwater harvesting system.

But the report also identified opportunities for progress, issuing three key recommendations to DKU leaders: set campus-wide, time-bound sustainability goals; improve data collection on metrics such as waste sorting; and establish an office to coordinate sustainability efforts.

A team of 16 undergraduates from Sustainable DKU led by Emerson Meeks (Class of 2024) and Wynona Curaming (Class of 2023) launched the project in summer 2022 with the support of faculty from the Environmental Research Center.

Meeks and Curaming thanked student volunteers, faculty advisors and university staff for their support in producing the “2022 Sustainability Report”.

Emerson Meeks presents the report to the Duke International Forum with Zhang Weijia

“Through our work with DKU’s first-ever sustainability report, we hope to facilitate further actions and awareness in sustainability across the DKU campus and community,” Meeks said.

“Looking to the future, we hope that DKU will work to develop and implement specific, measurable and time-bound sustainability goals.”

Curaming, pictured below, said she is very proud of the team’s accomplishments.

“My aspiration is that our analyses and data-driven recommendations will serve as a catalyst for sustainability initiatives across campus,” she added.

“I’m especially hopeful that DKU will set goals to reduce its environmental impacts further, such as through climate net-zero goals and creating a sustainability office.”

The student researchers benchmarked DKU’s environmental performance in energy, water, waste, food and air quality against the UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate targets established under the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015.

They conducted multiple rounds of interviews with staff overseeing functions such as campus management, dining services, and environmental health and safety to produce an academically rigorous, data-driven yet accessible report with clear calls for action.

The compiling process also required background literature reviews, drafting and faculty-supported revisions, as well as photography, editing and design.

The report was presented last year in Kunshan at the Duke International Forum, which brings together policymakers, industry leaders and technical experts from around the world annually to discuss key issues such as climate and sustainability.

“I was extremely impressed both by the level of commitment from the students and the quality of what they delivered,” said Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy Dr. Coraline Goron, who advises Sustainable DKU.

“I am equally very grateful for the time and access to data and information that our colleagues from DKU Operations generously offered throughout the process.

“For me, this very successful endeavor demonstrates how campus-based learning and sustainability can work hand in hand. I am excited to see more initiatives flourish in the future.”

In the report’s foreword, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Scott MacEachern paid tribute to its quality and detail.

“The data and the stories in this report reflect our commitment to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement, and it will also serve as a benchmark for measuring our progress in years to come,” he wrote.

In 2016, Duke Kunshan became the first university campus in China to be awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the mostly widely recognized green building standard globally.

The second construction phase of the campus was completed last year to deliver comprehensive facilities matching DKU’s ambitions as a world-class hub of research, innovation and learning.

For more on the sustainability report read this story on the ERC website.

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