New ‘ambitious but achievable’ environmental plan

UConn has a strategic plan with "precise measurements for success across a wide range of operational and academic engagement activities," Herbst said. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut community was informed of a new environmental sustainability plan on Monday in an email from President Susan Herbst that included measurable goals and timelines to remain committed to a sustainable future.

The plan titled “2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability & Climate Leadership” is an effort made by several operational and academic departments to establish UConn as a leader in sustainability and continue its efforts as a green campus.

“This is a strategic plan with goals and precise measurements for success across a wide range of operational and academic engagement activities,” Herbst wrote in the email. “In achieving these goals, UConn will not only reduce its carbon footprint by more than 20 percent since 2007, despite our growth, but will also save approximately $3.5 million a year compared with today’s energy, fuel, and waste disposal costs. With this new roadmap to 2020 in hand, UConn looks forward to continued progress and an even more sustainable future.”

The goals are divided into categories: energy and buildings, waste reduction and diversion, outreach and engagement, water resources, food and dining, grounds, open space and conservation areas, purchasing and transportation. Each category has one or two goals and a few measurements to achieve those goals.

For example, under food and dining the goal is “continue to be a leader among colleges and universities in sustainable dining practices.” The metric is “Increase the percentage of locally-grown or community-based foods from 35 percent (2015) to 40 percent, obtain Green Restaurant Certification for all eight dining halls at the main campus and recycle/reuse 100 percent of food waste.”

“I was very excited to read Herbst’s email,” Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Mark Urban said. “I think in today’s political climate universities will have to take a much more political role in environmental leadership. I think it’s harder for UConn to do that because of our stage of growth. But, the plan is a good starting point.”

Many students don’t seem to realize how much of a leadership role the university has in sustainability. It should be publicized more and Herbst’s email to the university was an excellent way to do that, Urban said.

“In November, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UConn as the (no. 3) overall sustainable campus among 249 colleges and universities rated between 2013 and 2016,” Herbst said in the email. “For the fifth and sixth consecutive years, respectively, UConn earned a top 10 ranking in both the Sierra Club ‘Cool Schools’ and GreenMetric World University ratings.”

Office of Environmental Policy  Sustainability program coordinator Sarah Munro helped craft the new plan, which focuses on the main Storrs campus. After she and other colleagues attended the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, they came up with a “tight plan” to move the university forward.

“We created ambitious but achievable metrics that can push us forward as a leader in sustainability,” Munro said. “I think it’s great that we’re ranked so highly in our surveys. President Herbst’s decision to send this out is a reaffirmation that we are a green school and are committed to sustainability.”


Claire Galvin is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.