Lear More About UNK’s Sustainability Plan
By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is implementing a long-term plan to improve its environmental impact.
“We need to be a thoughtful leader in how we address sustainability,” said Lee McQueen, UNK director of facilities.
Sustainability is a comprehensive approach to managing the effects of global climate change. Creating a sustainable campus means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
In order to maximize impact, efficiency and savings, UNK is beginning to work towards reducing emissions by 13 percent, increasing the recycling rate to 50 percent, reducing energy consumption by 25 percent, reducing water consumption by 15 percent, making the campus 75-percent commute sustainable and using 50-percent green purchasing by 2025.
By 2050, UNK plans to be 100-percent climate neutral and have a 90-percent recycling rate.
The university will also work to offer more courses on sustainability, improve coordination of sustainability efforts, and improve the campus culture and engagement around sustainability.
Some of the steps UNK will take include reducing the number of UNK-owned IT devices on campus, installing more water efficient irrigation heads, improving recycling efforts through education, installing LED lighting across campus, and incorporating sustainable mobility between University Village and the main campus.
UNK worked with Verdis Group, an Omaha-based environmental and sustainability consulting agency, to engage university stakeholders in a planning process to analyze and benchmark the university’s sustainability performance, develop a sustainability vision and set goals, and develop strategies for achieving the vision and goals.
The areas assessed were energy, water, waste, purchasing, mobility, emissions, academics, and campus culture and engagement.
“It’s important for UNK to be active in sustainability because all the components are important to the economic operation of the university and because of our responsibility to our local environment,” McQueen said.
UNK established a sustainability committee in 2009. Some of the sustainability efforts implemented since then include Dining Services transitioning to trayless dining, installation of 21 water bottle refill stations, an upgraded central utility plant, elimination of most fluorescent lighting throughout campus, overhaul of the recycling program, and implementation of a bicycle sharing program and the Enterprise CarShare program.
“The biggest challenge with sustainability on campus is the perception that we don’t need to do anything,” McQueen said. “If we don’t make an effort, we’re going to be behind.