UofL Green Scene: Strides in the journey, but mountains to climb
How does a large institution like UofL balance environmental, social and economic stewardship to become more sustainable? The question is complex and the answers aren’t clear cut. But we are on our way toward answering it.
Just three years ago, President James Ramsey signed the national Presidents’ Climate Commitment and created the Sustainability Council and its associated committees: Operations; Administration, Finance & Outreach; and Education & Research, to ensure that sustainability is infused into all of UofL’s functional areas and its relationships with the broader community.
Since then, a lot has happened:
In 2010, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ranked UofL Silver on its Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The rating indicates that UofL is on the right path in its sustainability journey and it also provides valuable guidance for future work.
Here are some of UofL’s other achievements, by Sustainability Council committee area.
- The National Arbor Day Foundation gave UofL Tree Campus USA status for the first time. You can learn more about campus trees and our plans to protect them by taking a self-guided campus tree tour.
- UofL received LEED Gold certification for buildings on all three campuses, including the renovated Duthie Center for Engineering (Belknap), the Clinical & Translational Research Building (HSC) and the Center for Predictive Medicine (Shelby).
- We expanded a nearly $40 million energy efficiency performance contract with Siemens designed to reduce our utility bills by about $11,800/day.
- We increased the amount of trash we generate that does not go to the landfill to 47.8 percent by using single-stream recycling.
- We’re working with MSD to design and have begun to implement such green infrastructure projects as rain gardens, vegetated roofs and infiltration basins so we can reduce flooding and keep storm water out of the sewers.
- Garden Commons expanded to include a greenhouse, rain barrels and more raised veggie beds.
- Free game-day shuttles from Belknap to downtown and free frequent shuttle service between Belknap and Health Sciences campuses came from a revision of routes we negotiated with TARC.
Administration, Finance & Outreach
- We have affiliated with the Workers’ Rights Consortium to ensure that UofL apparel is not produced in sweatshops.
- Students have begun work to establish UofL as a Fair Trade University.
- The Sustainability Council completed a comprehensive Climate Action Plan designed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
- We developed a Bicycle Master Plan to shape our campuses in ways that make it easier to get around on bicycle and foot.
- Sustainability issues now are an integral part of student and employee orientations as well as continuing education courses.
- We established both a Green Fund, which will allow alumni and others to contribute to key sustainability initiatives, and a Socially Responsible Investment Committee, which will explore options for UofL’s endowment.
- “Business First” recognized UofL as the healthiest employer in Louisville. The Sustainability Council works closely with Get Healthy Now and Campus Health Promotion to maximize wellness on campus in ways that help people reduce their environmental impact.
- The Office of Community Engagement received national recognition for UofL’s commitment to community service and outreach, with multiple opportunities throughout the year for students, faculty and staff to contribute to sustainability beyond campus borders.
- The Office of Diversity works at many levels to ensure that UofL remains a diverse, affordable place where all are welcome and respected.
Education & Research
- Students participated in activities ranging from RecycleMania to on- and off-campus conference presentations.
- A student team develops and leads our annual spring Climate Change Teach-In.
- Student and faculty researchers aided in the Gulf oil disaster cleanup.
- We compiled a list of some 770 different courses that incorporate sustainability concepts across many disciplines. The list makes it easier for interested students to find course opportunities and for curriculum planning groups to begin developing new academic degrees in sustainability.
- A third cohort of faculty from many disciplines formed to participate in Green Threads, UofL’s faculty development program focused on infusing sustainability across the curriculum.
- Physical Plant launched an energy savings website to explain savings and environmental benefits as well as to inform users of upcoming building retrofits.
- The Urban Wildlife Research Lab began to examine population diversity and health of campus wildlife.
And that’s not all. Despite the range of accomplishments above, this list is far from exhaustive—and the work is not finished.
UofL has made strides toward greater sustainability, but we still have many mountains to climb. You can help in this journey by taking individual or collective action! Check out our “Get Involved” page for ideas about the many ways to engage with sustainability at UofL.
(Editor's Note: Green Scenes is a monthly feature by people at UofL involved in campus sustainability initiatives.)