Sustainability on Campus


nalanda building performance

Being over 50,000 square feet, the Nalanda Campus building is subject to the "Boulder Building Performance Ordinance" which requires that we perform things such as annual energy reporting to the city and an Ashrae Level II Energy Audit. From the City of Boulder's website:

Energy Efficiency for Commercial and Industrial Buildings

In support of community energy and climate goals, the Boulder City Council adopted the Boulder Building Performance Ordinance (Ordinance No. 8071) on Oct. 20, 2015. These rating and reporting and energy efficiency requirements move beyond current voluntary programs to require actions that reduce energy use and improve the quality of Boulder’s commercial and industrial building stock. 

Ordinance Requirements

This ordinance requires privately-owned commercial and industrial buildings and city-owned buildings to do the following:

  1. Annually rate and report building energy use;
  2. Perform energy assessments every ten years;
  3. Perform retrocommissioning every ten years and implement cost effective retrocommissioning measures within two years of the study; and
  4. Implement one-time lighting upgrades.

Check out the infographic about the ordinance.   

Changes to ACUPCC
In 2015 the American Colleges and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) was re-branded as the "Carbon Commitment" by its organizing body Second Nature. As part of the changes, Second Nature also added two additional commitments. Naropa is looking to increase its commitment level by signing the "Climate Commitment" which includes a resilience aspect, sometime in 2017.
The sustainability staff is working on updating Naropa's Sustainability Tracking and Rating System report, also know as STARS. As the report stands currently, Naropa has a silver rating. However, we are hoping that will further investigation and with the changes that have occurred over the 2015/2016 school year that we can get a gold rating.   
Updates to the Climate action plan

Naropa's Climate Action Plan was last updated in 2013. The goal is to update the Climate Action Plan this year to reflect progress on sustainability measures since 2013, as well as the addition of new goals and commitments since. Some important things that will be added to the next update to the Climate Action Plan include measures such as:

  • The 2016 greenhouse gas inventory results
  • The addition of the Climate Commitment goals
  • Solar energy systems on the Print Shop and Pavilion
  • Paramita upgrades and Level II Energy Audit at Nalanda
  • Alternative transportation options such as Boulder BCycle and eGo carshare
  • Management of the campus cafes by Boulder Bridge House


RecycLing & Zero Waste

Naropa University's Zero Waste goal is to mindfully support the university in being a sustainable system where resources are fully used and waste is reduced to a minimum. Naropa currently boasts an 80% diversion rate, thanks in large part to the campus-wide recycing and compost bins located in all common areas of all buildings and exterior space. Naropa University is now a Green Star Business Network member!

 Students conducting campus waste audit   Zero Waste Station

Students conducting campus waste audit
  • Composting bins at all campuses in all common areas
  • 100% of landscaping waste is either composted on-site or locally
  • On-site compost is returned to the campus as fertilizer
  • All Snow Lion residents are provided with kitchen composting bins
  • The Naropa Cafés, operated by the local non-profit organization Bridge House, either compost what little food waste they produce or use the unbought food to feed the homeless population at their main kitchen location off-campus
Zero waste trainings at naropa
As part of compliance with the new Zero Waste Ordinance in Boulder County, the Office for Sustainability and Eco-Cycle staff offer regular zero waste trainings for staff, faculty and students. For more information or to schedule a zero waste training for your class or department, please email
Map of Zero Waste Stations at Arapahoe Campus
Zero Waste Stations Map


Energy & Climate

Naropa's climate action plan

Naropa ratified its Climate Action Plan first in 2011 and updated it again in 2013. The Office for Sustainability staff, and the Naropa Sustainability Council are currently working on implementation. Some of the highlights of the Climate Action Plan include:

  • A commitment to carbon neutrality by 2040
  • Annual greenhouse gas inventorying
  • Commitments to build only LEED certified buildings
  • Present sustainability projects for approval to the Board of Trustees annually
  • Development of sustainable purchasing matrices
  • Build a culture of sustainability within the Naropa community
  • Integrate sustainability into the core learning curriculum
  • Strive to power the university with 100% renewable energy

You can read the 2013 update to the Climate Action Plan.

Commitment to Climate justice

Naropa signed the American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007. You can read the full text of the commitment here. Since then, the ACUPCC has been re-branded as the "Carbon Commitment" and you can read the updated text of that commitment here. Some highlights of the ACUPCC and Carbon Commitment include:

  • Develop an action plan for becoming climate neutral within two years of signing
  • Establish a policy that all new construction be rated at least LEED silver
  • Encourage use and provide access to public transportation to all faculty, students and staff
  • Within one year of signing, purchase at least 15% of electricity from renewable sources

In an effort to keep pace with the changing landscape of sustainability on campuses across North America and beyond, Naropa is looking to expand its commitments to sustainability by signing the "Climate Commitment" which includes a resilience aspect. You can read the full text of the commitment here. This signing will most likely occur during Sustainability Day in the Fall of 2016 and below are some additional aspects that would be included in the Climate Commitment:

  • Define thresholds of resilience for the university to meet, taking into account the wider community vulnerabilities as well
  • Actively support a joint campus-community task force to bring alignment of Climate Action Plan with the wider community's goals
  • Within two years of signing, complete a campus-community resilience assessment
  • Submit an annual evaluation of progress
greenhouse gas inventory

Greenhouse gas (GHG) inventorying is a pillar of Naropa's Climate Action Plan. It is our primary means of gauging progress toward climate neutrality by 2040, and can help us determine areas of improvement. We performed GHG inventories from 2008-2010, however due to staffing cutbacks we were not been able to re-energize GHG inventories until 2016. See a summary of GHG inventories here, in our Climate Action Plan. New inventory data will be posted here soon.

In the past, Naropa used the Campus Carbon Calculator, developed by the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire, to perform the GHG inventory. Since that time, the tool has been changed to SIMAP (Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform), and it includes a large range of metrics such as:

  • Faculty/Staff Commuting
  • Student Commuting
  • Directly Financed Air Travel
  • Student Travel to/from Home
  • Solid Waste
  • Wastewater
  • Paper
  • Purchased energy and natural gas
Renewable energy

Naropa University has two solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems: one on the print shop building and a larger array on top of the Pamela Krasney Pavillion, both on the Arapahoe Campus. View real-time feedback from, and information about, our solar power panels here.

In addition to the solar panels, Naropa university purchases Renewable Energy certificates or carbon offsets every year. In 2017, Naropa University purchased 1,484,160 kWh of carbon offsets, certifying that the carbon emissions from heating and lighting our four campuses were balanced by an equal mass of carbon being captured at the Larimer County Landfill.  You can read about this, and our new partnership with Colorado Carbon Fund, here.


In the fall of 2013, Naropa made history by becoming the first university to completely divest its holdings in companies identified as having the highest potential greenhouse gas emissions. This came after a presentation to the Board of Trustees by a group of environmentally conscious students. Naropa’s Board of Trustees concluded that the divestment would not threaten the stability of the stock portfolio. In reaching the decision to divest, Naropa's Endowment Committee took a values-centered approach to investing which created a clear context for the decision.  

Naropa’s portfolio at the time of divestment was approximately $6.25 million, and the total amount divested was more than $104,000. The decision places Naropa among a dozen colleges and universities in the United States that are leading the charge toward more environmentally responsible investing. The full range of these actions included freezing any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divestment from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years. 

Read more about Naropa's divestment:

Naropa University is committed to investing our endowment assets in a manner consistent with the Buddhist precept of "not causing harm." Thus, the Naropa University Endowment strives, on a best-efforts basis, to avoid investment in primary manufacturers of weapons systems, tobacco, alcohol, or gambling products, as well as companies with egregious records of environmental damage, discriminatory behavior, or poor employee relations. Additionally, we strongly encourage investment in corporations that provide active solutions to social and environmental challenges.

Statement of Commitment to the Practice of Sustainability

Naropa University’s mission* includes embracing “the richness of human diversity with the aim of fostering a more just and equitable society and an expanded awareness of our common humanity”.

At Naropa, we view the practice of sustainability as essential to the current and future needs of this planet and its inhabitants through the acknowledgement of the deep interrelationship between all beings and phenomena.

The health of our environment is seen as directly related to, and reflective of, the community’s psychological state and the genuineness of effectiveness of the University’s educational mission. Naropa University aspires to be a leader in the practice of sustainability that promotes the individual and collective integration of ecological, economic, and spiritual well-being.

Naropa University is committed to sustainability-in-action; employing strategic initiatives to move the community towards specific goals, such as, but not limited to, zero waste, climate neutrality, and 100% renewable energy. This practice of sustainability in everyday life educated and prepares each member of the Naropa University community to live and act with awareness and respect for oneself, all other sentient beings, and the natural world.

* A critical outcome of a contemplative education is actively to train and educate oneself to build a healthy, bilateral, and sustainable relationship to one’s physical body, immediate environment, and the planet and to then realize and experience their inter-connectedness. Springing from the view that our bodies, other sentient beings, and the world around us are fundamentally sacred, a Naropa education must engender the wisdom and skillful means to put this view into lifelong action.


Grounds & Landscaping

prayer flags on edge of naropa green
For more than twenty years, Naropa University landscapers have used environmentally sound practices, creating a campus that is a model of sustainability and regenerative land management.

Always innovative and seeking to improve, Naropa University currently uses the following approaches to eco-landscaping:

  • Composting all plant material.
  • Creating habitat for bees and pollinators.
  • Never using any "cides" - no pesticides, herbicides, etc.
  • Planting many edible and medicinal plants.
  • Using products that are biodegradable and/or organic.
  • Always incorporating principles of permaculture.
  • Actively working to improve water conservation by upgrading and modifying existing irrigation systems.
  • Incorporating new technology at the Paramita Campus, such as subsurface irrigation linked to an on-site weather station that supplies water to the lawn and gardens only in the proper quantities and only at the proper times. By delivering water directly to the root zone, evaporation is all but eliminated. In what is known as "fertigation," organic liquid fertilizers also flow through the irrigation system, delivering minute and constant levels of fertilizer throughout the growing season, which improves plant health and reduces maintenance.
  • Phasing out the use of fossil fuel equipment by purchasing electric mowers and trimmers, as well as through the use of biodiesel for the maintenance truck and bobcat.
 William D. Jones Community Greenhouse

Naropa's community greenhouse
The Project

The Naropa University Greenhouse Project was initiated by eight students in the fall 2006 Advanced Applied Horticulture class, who envisioned a campus that could exemplify alternative food production methods. Excitement grew, and some of those students carried the project beyond the "class project phase," introducing it to the greater Naropa community. As the buzz spread, members of the Environmental Studies Department, Facilities, Office of University Advancement, Operations and adjunct faculty members signed on to help, making the project a community effort. A site near the Naropa Tea House was chosen for construction of the greenhouse, which was completed in fall 2008. Its grand opening celebration took place on Earth Day 2009, featuring a talk, "Growing Strong Communities: Lessons from the Naropa Community Greenhouse," by former ombudsman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Robert Martin.

An Expression of Naropa's Commitment

The greenhouse enhances learning opportunities built around horticulture methods, permaculture, ecological system sciences and environmental philosophies such as deep ecology. In addition, it  provides plants for campus landscaping, vegetables for the Naropa Café, and seedlings for the Boulder community. As a tangible manifestation of Naropa University's environmental commitment, the greenhouse inspires the community to both learn more and do more to foster a healthy relationship with nature.

The Structure

After much research, project members settled on a geodesic dome design. Delivered as a kit and assembled on site, the greenhouse is 22 feet in diameter, has an interior area of 379 sq. ft., and reaches a height of 10' 10". In addition, permaculture design philosophy guided construction of the interior. For example, growing space was maximized through stacking methods and self-sufficiency has been achieved via a one thousand gallon aquarium that moderates temperature and provides fertilizer. With the inclusion of a subterranean heating system and solar panels, the structure is 100 percent self-sustaining.

Permaculture Lab


The permaculture instructor and students manage the greenhouse to be a sound example of permaculture principles in action. Management practices strive to make as many connections between different features as possible.

One example of this is that the greenhouse has a wintertime deficiency of warmth and carbon dioxide. There is also a surplus of slugs and sow bugs, which are detrimental to plants. Adding domestic quail to the greenhouse accomplishes management of these needs and surpluses, as the quail provide body heat and carbon dioxide to the greenhouse, and will also eat the slugs and sow bugs. In this way, the problems become solutions, as they suggest an available niche in the ecology, and by adding quail, additional yields of eggs and meat are obtained.


A sample of plants grown in the greenhouse are fig, lemon, pineapple guava, pomegranate, tea, kumquat, passion fruit, spineless nopale, lemongrass, rosemary, water chestnut, and yacon. As indicated by the type of plants, a subtropical environment is attempting to be maintained with no winter heating or lighting required. The greenhouse has yet to be challenged by near-record cold, but so far the strategies employed have proven successful.

For more information about on-campus permaculture projects, please visit Permaculture Design and Research on Campus.

Edible Landscaping

At Naropa we incorporate edible and medicinal plants into the landscape to engage the community and contribute to a regenerative, sustainable ecosystem. With edibles, the landscape becomes more personal, interactive, and bountiful. Many of the plants serve as food and habitat for bees and pollinators and several Naropa classes utilize the edible landscape for teaching and coursework. Below are maps of most of the edible and medicinal plants on our campuses.

Arapahoe Edibles Map

Paramita Campus edible landscape

Snow Lion edible landscape

Naropa Food Forest

Food Forest Plans (click to enlarge)

Naropa Food Forest


Leadership & Student Involvement

Naropa sustainability council

Vision: to cultivate knowledge, skills and leadership for a more just, sustainable and holistic society.


Students making seed bombs at Earth Justice Day 2018


Fall 2019 Meetings Calendar


Center for Culture, Identity & Social Justice

(Arapahoe Campus)


Day & Time:

Fridays, 12:00-1:30pm



September 6th, 2019

September 13th, 2019

September 20th, 2019

September 27th, 2019


The Mission of the NSC is to support the university in its endeavors as stated in Naropa’s Sustainability Statement and outlined in Naropa’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Recognizing that sustainability is a core value of Naropa's mission, the NSC serves the university as a multi-stakeholder resource and advisory board promoting educational outreach and sustainability initiatives. This involves proposing and implementing projects, programs, events, etc., as well as providing strategic input on sustainability goals and planning. The NSC presents projects to advance the CAP on an annual basis to the Vice President for Operations. The NSC is also responsible for Sustainability Day and Earth Day event planning and hosting. Through this work the NSC serves to develop and engage students by providing leadership and campus engagement opportunities.

The is involved in a number of sustainability issues on campus and is open to any student from any campus or program. In the past, the NSC has consisted of several subcommittees focused on such issues as:

  • Cafe and sustainable food sourcing at Naropa
  • Outreach & Newsletter
  • The Naropa Bike Shack
  • Earth Justice Day & Sustainability Events
  • SCORE@Naropa  


Mindful Transportation

The combination of buses and bikes makes it easy to commute without a car while attending Naropa University. Boulder and the surrounding Front Range have an extensive bus and bicycle commuter system in place. Bicycling Magazine placed Boulder at #10 for Best Bike Cities in America in 2016, and Naropa University was given a Bronze rating as a Bicycle Friendly University in 2017 by the League of American Bicyclists. Moreover, our mass transit system (RTD) gives you the option of riding your bike to the bus stop and putting your bike on the bike rack at the front of the bus to get between campuses, or just around town.

Naropa University recognizes the positive ecological, physical and economic benefits of alternative transportation options. Naropa's Arapahoe Campus has limited parking, and students, staff and faculty are encouraged to find alternatives. Below you will find an extensive list of mindful transportation options available to help you get where you're going in a good way.


The Naropa Bike Shack

Bike Shack

Naropa gives all students, faculty and staff free access to the Naropa Bike Shack, where the Naropa community can keep their cruisers cruising, for free! The City of Boulder won first in the nation by People for Bikes for its cycling "network" (the quality and completeness of its bike paths), and third in the nation in overall bike-friendliness. 

The Bike Shack is a non-profit, student-run organization on the Arapahoe campus and it provides a myriad of services such as:

  • Build-a-bike program: learn how to build a bike from the ground up for free, and keep the bike too!
  • Free tune-ups and check-ups
  • Free or low-cost parts and accessories
  • Service visits
  • Free bikes for visitors and alumni to borrow
  • Opportunities to volunteer and gain valuable bike mechanic experience

The Bike Shack is open to all Naropa students, faculty and staff. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please send an email to or stop by during the Bike Shack's open hours (link above).

Bike Sharing with Boulder B-Cycle

Boulder BCycle rack of bikes

Naropa students, faculty and staff are entitled to unlimited 60-minute rides with FREE annual passes to Boulder B-Cycle, a value of $88! Simply follow the directions on this page and sign up with your email address. Boulder B-Cycle is a nonprofit bike sharing organization with over 40 stations throughout Boulder. There are B-Cycle stations in front of both the Arapahoe and Paramita campuses, and you can find a more detailed map of B-Cycle stations on their website.  

ecopass & collegepass with RTD


All members of the Naropa community are entitled to unlimited use of public transportation in the Denver-Boulder metro areas (including trips to Denver International Airport). All Naropa employees are provided with a free Ecopass, and Naropa students receive a CollegePass. There are convenient bus stops serving all Naropa campuses, and you can plan your trip using RTD's convenient Trip Planner.

Carshare with eGo Carshare

eGo Car Share

eGo Carshare is one of the first and longest-running local nonprofit carshare organizations in the country, serving the Denver-Boulder community since 2001. eGo's mission is to provide and promote alternatives to individual car ownership, thereby reducing the environmental and social impacts associated with motor vehicle use. Naropa has dedicated eGo Carshare parking spots on both the Arapahoe and Paramita campuses, making it a convenient option for most of the Naropa community. It's easy to join, just navigate to eGo CarShare's signup page, and use the promo code NAROPASTUDENT for $10 off your application fee. 

Carpooling & Permit Sharing
Naropa University community members are encouraged to share the cost of a semester permit with one or more carpool partners. This saves money and uses one parking spot: a win-win situation. For more detailed information about permits at Naropa, see the parking permits information page.