Six new goals include focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing sustainability literacy, and education
Thursday, May 7, 2020

The University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment has announced a framework for campuswide sustainability goals to be met by 2030.

The new goals are the result of collaboration between a number of groups, including the 2030 UI Sustainability Goal Setting Task Force of faculty, staff, and students formed near the end of the fall 2019 semester.

Continuing to advance sustainability initiatives builds upon the success of the Vision 2020 sustainability goals announced in 2010, when then-President Sally Mason challenged the university community to more fully integrate sustainability into its mission.

stratis giannakouros
Stratis Giannakouros

Stratis Giannakouros, director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, says while Vision 2020 focused primarily on issues that Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability could tackle, the current task force realized that the 2030 sustainability goals needed shared commitment and action from across the entire university.

“This approach has meant including units engaged in activities such as academics, research, operations, planning, engagement, athletics, and student life,” he says. “Because of this broad and deep intersection with the university mission and community, I agree with UI leadership that our sustainability efforts must be embedded across campus, with each unit developing a sense of ownership for these important shared objectives.”

Giannakouros says the 2030 Sustainability Goals Task Force will work with the UI Sustainability Charter Committee and campus partners to craft specific, measurable goals for each of the following six framework objectives. The goals will be vetted through shared governance bodies with the goal of being finalized by Dec. 1, 2020. The initial 2030 Sustainability Goals Framework Proposal and timeline for implementation can be found on the Office of Sustainability and the Environment website.

UI 2030 Sustainability Goals Framework

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to 2010 baseline and continue to pursue a renewable energy supply strategy.
    The UI will continue to pursue greenhouse gas  emissions (GHG) reductions and a renewable energy supply strategy aligned with science-based targets. The campus will have a comprehensive decarbonization plan employing best practices and aggressive energy conservation efforts.
  2. Institutionalize and embed sustainability into campus culture.
    The UI will establish sustainability goals that promote a culture of sustainability and reduce negative environmental and social impacts of campus operations. Each unit on campus will develop a plan to meet campus sustainability goals.
  3. Expand sustainability research, scholarship, and solutions opportunities.
    The UI will develop goals to build the capacity for students and researchers across campus to work on sustainability-related “grand challenges of the 21st century.” The goals will encourage research that is interdisciplinary and  driven by the potential for being applied.
  4. Use campus as a “living laboratory” for sustainability education and exploration
    The UI will develop goals to increase opportunities for students and researchers to use the UI campus as an educational and research laboratory for improvement of campus sustainability and ecosystems.
  5. Prepare students to live and work in the 21st century through sustainability education.
    The UI will develop goals to raise sustainability literacy as a universal outcome and to develop the capacity for students to graduate with an appreciation for and ability to apply sustainable practices.
  6. Facilitate knowledge exchange among the campus community and the state of Iowa, nation, and world.
    The UI will develop goals to grow sustainability outreach and engagement; these will feature partnerships and community-engaged education and research.

Giannakouros says the framework for the six goals is designed to be flexible in order to accommodate new information and conditions such as scientific findings, policy changes, and trends in higher education over the next decade. The task force initially intended to announce the new goals on Earth Day, but the process was delayed slightly by the impact of the coronavirus.

“The 2030 Sustainability Goals Framework encompasses every aspect of the academic and operational missions of the university and is the product of a great number of people working together,” says Giannakouros. “While each of the goals in the framework is important, I am particularly proud of our ambitious, but achievable, goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and how this signals the University of Iowa’s profound commitment to current and future generations. I am excited to see what we can achieve together in the next decade.”

2020 goals update

The UI Sustainability Charter Committee has published its report on progress toward top metrics in the Vision 2020 goals. The report highlights seven goals, including becoming a net-negative energy consumer, “greening” the university's energy portfolio, and decreasing production of waste.

Achievements since 2010:

  • Total energy  use is  slightly lower, despite 15 new buildings and major additions  to campus
  • 40%  of  UI  energy consumption comes from  renewable energy  sources
  • 75% reduction in annual coal  consumption
  • 50% of UI purchased power coming from wind  energy

Read the full report here.