Green Firsts

Colorado State’s leadership in research into alternative energy solutions dates to the 1960s. Now, faculty members in all CSU colleges — from Liberal Arts to Engineering — are developing solutions to solve some of the world’s most challenging environmental problems.


  • CSU philosophy faculty have been pioneers in the fields of environmental ethics.
  • CSU scientists created the world’s first engineered solar-heated and -cooled building.
  • CSU was the first university in the world to obtain a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) CI (Commercial Interior) Certification, thanks to the efforts of students, faculty and staff in the Institute for the Built Environment, Construction Management, Interior Design, and Facilities Management. Guggenheim’s second floor classrooms obtained the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver Certification in 2006. The remodel of one of CSU’s oldest buildings features energy saving light fixtures, excellent daylighting, carpets, chairs, and display boards with recycled fibers, waterless urinals and non-toxic paints.
  • CSU’s 5.3 megawatt, 30 acre solar plant, is one of the largest at a U.S. college or university
  • Envirofit International, a CSU spinoff company, is developing what The New York Times calls, “the first market-based model for clean-burning wood stove technology for application in the developing world.”
  • Students and faculty in CSU’s Engineers Without Borders chapter led an engineering project that brought a stable water supply to a 1,200-person rural village in El Salvador.
  • CSU scientists with NASA created the world’s most sensitive cloud-profiling radar, CloudSat, now orbiting 438 miles above Earth and monitoring climate change and global warming activity from space.
  • CSU has created the largest and most prominent independent engines research laboratory in North America, which helps to develop distributed power grid systems, clean-burning industrial engines, two-stroke engines to reduce pollution from taxis in the Philippines, and cleaner burning cookstoves in India, Nepal and Nicaragua.
  • The first American academic program in engineering was launched at CSU in 1886, laying the groundwork for the University’s modern College of Engineering, which leads many of CSU’s groundbreaking green research activities.
  • CSU established the nation’s first emissions-control program, a reflection of Colorado State’s long-term involvement in clean and sustainable energy alternatives.
  • Colorado State was the first university to collect data via satellite for weather forecasting and the first to design a scientific satellite launched from a space shuttle.
  • Colorado State was one of the first universities in the country to offer green power as an option to the students living on campus.
  • The Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) at CSU coordinated the effort to gain LEED Certification for Poudre School District’s Fossil Ridge High School, the first school in Colorado (and third high school in the nation) to obtain the US. Green Building Council’s widely recognized rating. Students and faculty associated with the IBE performed research, project registration, credit interpretation, and case study dissemination between 2003-2006 for the school district and project team.
  • The Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) and its students coordinated the first LEED for Schools Certified Elementary School in the nation – Bethke Elementary, the newest school in the Poudre School District, located in Timnath, Colo. Bethke was awarded Gold Certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s second highest level of certification, in October, 2008.
  • First institution in the nation to offer a Master of Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting (2014)
  • CSU won first ever Favorite Tree Campus USA contest sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation (2014)
  • CSU was the first institution in the world to earn a STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) Platinum rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS is the most well-respected sustainability assessment in academia with over 700 institutions participating on six continents.
  • CSU was one of only nine inaugural honorees for the U.S. Department of Education Postsecondary Sustainability Awards in 2015.
  • Colorado State was the first major institution in the U.S. to sign the Climate Reality Pledge, committing the university to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. This goal is in line with CSU’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.