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Towards a Sustainable UVA: Students, Staff, and Faculty Leading the Way

Ten years and ten goals encompass UVA’s 2020-2030 Sustainability Plan. Andrea Ruedy Trimble, director of the UVA Office for Sustainability at the University of Virginia, highlights how UVA faculty, staff, and students are bringing these goals to life on Grounds.


Last fall, UVA announced the adoption of its second Sustainability Plan with ten bold goals within a “Steward, Engage, Discover” framework to guide progress for the next decade. The 2020-2030 UVA Sustainability Plan is an important next chapter in UVA’s sustainability journey and builds upon sustainability commitments in UVA’s “Great and Good” strategic plan, previous Board of Visitors sustainability resolutions, and the 2016-2020 Sustainability Plan. UVA students, faculty, staff, and alumni have been demonstrating leadership across areas to help UVA work towards these ten ambitious goals:

  1. Be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil fuel free by 2050.
  2. Reduce water consumption 30% compared to 2010 by 2030.
  3. Reduce waste footprint to 30% of 2010 totals by 2030.
  4. Reduce nitrogen 30% compared to 2010 by 2030.
  5. Increase sustainable food to 30% of cost by 2030.
  6. Advance equitable places.
  7. Build accountability.
  8. Enhance sustainability teaching.
  9. Enhance sustainability research.
  10. Support Grounds-engaged learning.

Here are just a few examples of the many Hoos leading the way on Grounds:

DISCOVER: Support Grounds-engaged learning
Bee Grounds UVA: Environmental Sciences graduate students Kelsey Schoenemann and Emily Spindler created a pan-university Bee Grounds UVA committee and led UVA to its first “Bee Campus USA” certification, a program managed by the Xerces Society. The Bee Grounds certification and committee will advance the creation of and the awareness of pollinator habitats.

ENGAGE: Build accountability
Unit-Level Strategic Planning: In response to UVA’s new sustainability plan, Director Dudley Doane and Business Manager Scott Norris of the International Studies Office (ISO) worked with a committee to develop ISO’s first sustainability plan. Their plans include offsetting carbon emissions related to travel, Green Workplace certification, zero-waste events, and more.

STEWARD: Increase sustainable food to 30% by 2030
The Sustainable Food Collaborative, led by Institute for Engagement and Negotiation Director Tanya Denckla Cobb, is comprised of members from across UVA and Charlottesville. This summer, Tanya will again lead the Virginia Food Systems Leadership Institute, an opportunity for a multidisciplinary focus on food systems with faculty and students from George Mason, JMU, Virginia Tech, VCU, and UVA. The Institute is open to anyone from across the Commonwealth.

STEWARD: Be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil fuel free by 2050

Mike Duffy, transportation operations and fleet manager, has led Facilities Management in transitioning its fleet to electric and hybrid vehicles and recently achieved NAFA Sustainable Fleet Accreditation. This transition to alternative fuel vehicles, including vans and box trucks, is already saving thousands of gallons of gasoline annually.

The presidents of the University of Virginia and William & Mary, James E. Ryan and Dr. Katherine Rowe, formed a partnership to advance each institution’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. Some benefits of the partnership include accelerated climate action via the potential to replicate and amplify impacts beyond the two schools through shared resources and knowledge and specific project implementation. In April 2021, UVA students Jasmyn Noel and Cydnie Golson partnered with William & Mary student Emma Rebour to host a student-focused webinar, “Carbon Neutrality: The Development and Future of UVA and W&M’s Climate Action Plan.” Students held a conversation about the partnership and shared their perspectives on student engagement, which will help inform planning efforts.

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The Thoughts From the Lawn (TFTL) blog is published by Lifetime Learning at the University of Virginia’s (UVA) Office of Engagement. This platform features UVA faculty and staff articles for the benefit of UVA’s alumni, parents, and friends. The views expressed in TFTL blog posts reflect the views of the authors and not those of Lifetime Learning. Lifetime Learning reviews the content and links in each article before publication; however, we take no responsibility for inaccurate information and/or links that lead to post-publication, unintended sites. Lifetime Learning is not responsible and will not be held liable for blog comments and reserves the right to remove malicious or mean-spirited responses.

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