Regents present sustainability report

The Board of Regents reviewed an energy efficiency plan first passed in 2004.

Ashley Bray

 Following a top-notch report card in sustainability, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents  presented a plan detailing the UniversityâÄôs progress in sustainability over the past year.

Some of the highlights included in the report are the opening of the Science Teaching and Student Services  building, which is a green building, a new, green welcome center at the Morris campus, a green residence hall on the Crookston campus and the Bagley Nature Area classroom pavilion at the Duluth campus, according to the report. 

One of the goals for the University as a whole is to continue working on President BruininkâÄôs climate commitment, Kathleen OâÄôBrien, vice president of University Services, said.

OâÄôBrien said that continuing to work on the PresidentâÄôs climate action plan across all campuses will help achieve the goal of becoming carbon neutral before 2050, âÄúor as soon as we can,âÄù she said.

 Amy Short,  facilities management coordinator for the University, said that over time, additional goals, such as incorporating education, research and outreach initiatives.

âÄúWeâÄôre really working on how we implement and how we approach this âĦ itâÄôs really important to get in touch with certain things that are going on around the campus,âÄù she said.

Experts agreed that the key to achieving sustainability goals is communication across campuses, which has improved since last year.

OâÄôBrien says one large factor contributing to improvement has been hard work by a students, faculty and staff system-wide.

There was a large amount of activism of students in many different areas, she said.

ItâÄôs really all about how well the University is implementing the energy efficiency policy adopted by the Board of Regents in 2004,  Short said. âÄúThis is one of our first efforts to provide system-wide measures and report on a system-wide basis,âÄù Short said.

While the University has improved in many areas of sustainability over the last year, there is still room for improvement.

One of the biggest challenges standing in the way of becoming carbon-neutral is the size of the Twin Cities campus.

âÄúItâÄôs an advantage and itâÄôs also a disadvantage,âÄù Short said. âÄúAs far as knowing whatâÄôs happening, being able to share information and just providing some of these metrics is a real challenge.âÄù

Both Short and OâÄôBrien agree that even though there is work to be done, the UniversityâÄôs achievements in sustainability are a model for other campuses in the Big Ten and across the country.

Several Universities, including the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan have similar initiatives in place. Wisconsin has recently made a commitment to become a coal-free campus, which is a challenge the University of Minnesota has yet to solve, Short said.

Even so, OâÄôBrien said she thinks the University will continue to be a leader.

âÄúThe University has throughout itâÄôs history, whether its teaching or research or operations, had a commitment to environmental stewardship,âÄù she said. âÄúNow weâÄôre working to be more purposeful about that, not only to show our leadership but be a model for other Universities.âÄù