Utah Futures Star Rating Chart

Utah Futures Star Rating Chart

Utah Futures Star Rating

The U has been awarded the STARS Gold rating for its efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency and sustainability. The University has made considerable advances in establishing clean energy programs, reducing waste, and promoting conservation and “going green” on campus. In efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, the University recently completed a Solar Power Initiative and a huge new solar array will soon be built on campus.


The University of Utah recently received a STARS Gold rating for its all-encompassing efforts to promote sustainability—in campus operations, research and in the curriculum. Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, talks with Kerry Case, the U’s chief sustainability officer, about what the rating means, how we are approaching sustainability on campus and ways faculty and students are making an impact in environmental issues. Plus: Get ready for Earth Day! Recorded on March 16, 2021. Thanks to Brooke Adams, Emily Black and Dave White for technical assistance. Original music by Taylor Hartley. Read the full transcript.

On the "U Rising" podcast, President Ruth V. Watkins engages in insightful conversations with students, staff, faculty, alumni and community stakeholders who are at the center of the state's flagship research university. President Watkins also connects with other leaders to give listeners a fresh take on top issues and innovations in higher education in Utah and across the country. You can subscribe to U Rising via iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and other podcast streaming services. (Source: president.utah.edu)


And I think it's worth mentioning that there are three areas where we're really focused right now. One of those is centering equity in health in our sustainability work. They're critical parts of sustainability that for a long time didn't receive the attention that they need. Also, as you mentioned, climate change is a critical part of what we do. So, a focus on climate and particularly on climate resilience—asking questions about how are we as a university poised to address the impacts climate change will have and is having on our campus, on our institution and our operations.

Anecdotally, I was able to attend the first open forum for the presidential search and was pleased that I was not the only voice speaking up on behalf of sustainability as part of that. It's clear that sustainability matters to our students, faculty and staff, just like it did in 2007, but there've been some shifts with the office. As you know, the Sustainability Office now reports through Academic Affairs and includes the GCSE as the research arm. And really the point of the Sustainability Office is to lead efforts in campus-wide sustainability education, research and engagement. It really acts as a hub or an epicenter for students, faculty, and staff who are doing sustainability work. I would encourage anybody who is interested in learning more about the office and our programs to visit the website, which is sustainability.utah.edu. (Source: president.utah.edu)


Kerry Case: Absolutely. There has been extraordinary work happening on the Facilities side of the institution, and we see that represented in this STARS Gold accomplishment. And one of the things personally that I've been so excited to find is clear passion and support for sustainability at all levels of our Facilities team—planning, design, and construction. There are so many people working on this and doing really good work, and we could not have made the progress that earned us STARS or the progress we're making toward our climate commitment without their expertise, without their passion, without their leadership in that space.

Kerry Case: So today we're talking about STARS. I think one of the things to note is that part of the way we achieved gold were the huge gains we made in terms of the number of faculty doing sustainability research. We increased from 40% of departments doing sustainability research when we last did STARS in 2017 up to 65% this last round. And so I think what that shows us is sustainability research is being contributed by our faculty all across our institution, right? And so it's not coming out of just one or two departments—it's really widespread. And I think that is a huge strength when we think about sustainability problems as requiring multifaceted approaches, right? These are not just environmental problems. They are not just social problems. They are not just economic problems. And so, we need the research contributions of multiple faculty to contribute to these solutions, and we're seeing that happen. (Source: president.utah.edu)


Kerry Case: Yes, there's lots going on in April for Earth Day, and we actually have an Earth Week at the University of Utah, which begins April 12. The Sustainability Office does this in partnership with ASAU and there're tons of virtual events happening that week, including I am doing an open forum about sustainability with students. So, I'd encourage them to come ask questions and hear what we're working on. Also, a bunch of faculty have put together a great event, Artvism4Earth. So, I would encourage people to watch at The U or visit the Sustainability Office's website to learn more about everything going on that month.

Kerry Case: Absolutely. Getting students involved in sustainability, all aspects of sustainability is a top priority for the Sustainability Office, for the Global Change and Sustainability Center, and for me personally. We're trying to make a place for them in everything we do. And I'll give you one great example. We are currently conducting the university's first Climate Resilience Assessment, looking at the impacts of climate change on our institution and how we measure those, how we track those, how we prepare for those. So, it probably would have been easier to just bring in a consultant or do it with a couple of faculty but instead we, last fall, engaged eight different classes across multiple departments with hundreds of students in helping us with this work. We were able to gather the work that they did and create a subcommittee that also included student representatives to take it to the next step and then bring on a team of both graduate and undergraduate researchers to help us really begin measuring what are the potential impacts of climate change on our institution? How do we think about this? How do we move forward? (Source:president.utah.edu)



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