A student sits under a large maple in the Raider Villige complex at Southern Oregon University. The university recently received a Climate Leadership award. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]

SOU recognized for 'climate leadership'

After years of striving to reach “carbon zero,” Southern Oregon University has won more national recognition — this time honorable mention from Climate Leadership Awards at the 10th annual Presidential Climate Leadership Summit of the nonprofit Second Nature.

The recognition came at a conference in Arizona Feb. 14, and SOU was one of just four colleges or universities so named, out of 600 in the nation, says SOU spokesman Joe Mosley. Two years ago SOU was one of the top 12.

The award is based on a range of green, environmentally sound advances, he notes, including Raider Village, a dorm and dining complex with a gold LEED standard, and a student vote to impose a fee on themselves to offset electricity. It was used to make SOU the first campus in the U.S. to offset 100 percent of its water use. Other feathers in the green SOU cap include large numbers of solar panels on campus roofs, designation as a Tree Campus USA and the first Bee Campus USA in the nation.

In the interest of lowering air pollution and fossil fuel-driven trucks, SOU recently dropped a plan to burn bio-fuel from area forests, opting instead to replace aged boilers, which supply the school with 30 percent of its energy from burning natural gas — the rest being from electricity, assisted by heat pumps, Mosley said.

All the steps are factored into SOU’s overall plan to reach a carbon-neutral state by 2050.

For the third straight year, SOU got its Tree Campus USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation, which is for management of its urban forests and engaging students and staff in their conservation. The school holds planting festivities every Arbor Day and has planted 24,000 plants and 173 large trees during the event over the past three years. It created a five-acre arboretum next to Roca Canyon, just south of the Science Building, off Roca Street. Arbor Day is April 28 this year.

Second Nature, formed in 1993 to mobilize higher education toward a goal of sustainability, hosts the leadership summit each year as a touch-base opportunity, he said, for its Climate Leadership Network, composed of 600 universities.

Coming in ahead of SOU were Arizona State University and Johnson County Community College in Kansas, named winners of the 2017 Climate Leadership Awards.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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