Sustainability at the University of Maryland

How to Help Green the University of Maryland

Read our public reports and get involved to help advance sustainability at UMD.

Sustainabiliy is becoming a central tenet of UMD's identity. Through its Strategic Plan, its Climate Action Plan, and its Facilities Master Plan, the university set ambitious goals to be a national model of a green university, reduce the environmental impact of its operations, and increase students’ understanding of sustainability concepts. So how can UMD keep track of these goals and encourage continual progress? The answer is three-fold: regular public reporting to promote comprehension of campus sustainability trends; connection and collaboration between students, staff and faculty; and active communication channels between the campus community and the Office of Sustainability.

One way that students, faculty and staff have advanced in making UMD greener is through the projects they have submitted to apply for funding from the University Sustainability Fund. Generated from the undergraduate Student Sustainability Fee, the Fund supports collaborative projects that increase the share of renewable energy produced on campus, increase the energy efficiency of campus facilities, reduce the amount of waste created and material resources used on campus, encourage sustainable behaviors, and integrate sustainability into teaching, research and service. Over the past two years, twenty-one projects—all proposed by students, faculty and/or staff members—have received over $264,000 in grants from the Fund. The projects have produced tangible outcomes ranging from reduced use of chemicals in UMD’s pools, to reduced food waste from dining halls, to increased production of organically-grown food on campus, to small-scale solar and wind installations on top of campus buildings. Ongoing imagination and collaboration of campus community members is essential to achieving UMD’s goals to reduce its carbon footprint, increase recycling, and innovate as a national model of a green university. With the right information, the campus community can also connect to actively participate in proposing new goals and targets.

One of the roles of the Office of Sustainability is to provide everyone with clear, useable information about UMD’s annual progress on becoming more sustainable. People can draw on this information to spur ideas and strengthen proposals for sustainability-related projects and initiatives. While there are many ways that the Office fosters comprehension, communication and information-sharing, the backbone of this work resides in regular public reporting. The Office regularly publishes three reports to reflect trends in campus sustainability and show how the campus is doing. The Campus Sustainability Report—published every other fall—chronicles stories of sustainability work going on around campus. The Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report—published every fall—details a variety of campus operations activities and how much each activity contributes to the overall campus carbon footprint. The Sustainability Metrics Report—published every fall—presents an array of performance indicators to show changes in how the campus manages natural resources, changes in people’s environment-related behaviors, progress of programs to integrate sustainability into the curriculum, and a snapshot of UMD’s sustainability-related community outreach efforts. These three reports also serve to gauge progress in areas where UMD has committed to goals with time-specific targets. For example, the 2009 Climate Action Plan set several targets on the way to UMD’s ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050; 2012 is the year of the first target, a 15 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the 2005 baseline of 321,544 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent. The annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report communicates to the campus community and organizers of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (of which UMD is a charter signatory) where UMD is in regards to this target. By providing specific, detailed information, the report invites members of the campus community to get involved, reduce their energy use, try alternative methods of commuting, and connect with one another to come up with innovative new ways to keep progress going. Ideally community members also communicate their ideas and progress back to the Office of Sustainability so it can be included in the next round of public reports.

As the semester draws to a close, we invite all of you to reflect on the good work you’ve done so far and to dedicate some quality time this summer to imagining, creating and collaborating on proposals for new initiatives and projects that can bring UMD closer to its sustainability goals. Anticipate the release of the next round of all three of the Office of Sustainability’s public reports at the start of the fall semester. The next round of proposals to the University Sustainability Fund is due by November 1st, 2012. As always, the Office of Sustainability is open over the summer and ready to meet with people at any stage of idea development, from the first brainstorm to review of an almost final proposal.

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