Building a sustainable food culture on campus

by Amber Aumiller, graduate assistant, Sustainability Office

Nearly half of the earth’s usable land is designated for human agriculture which means food consumption significantly impacts our planet. According to a comprehensive study published in Science last year, our current relationship to consuming and producing food is not sustainable for the health of the land, water, or global climate. The current food supply chain is responsible for 26% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention other direct impacts to the natural ecosystems of our earth, its water systems, and its wildlife. The study suggests that moving to a non-animal diet could reduce land use by 76% and greenhouse gas emissions by 49%. The study also notes that the United States consumes meat at three times the global average, making our impacts and potential for affecting change even greater as food consumers with choices. But as a study published this year points out, not all consumers impact the environment equally, suggesting that broad shifts in food consumption will also have to include an understanding of the socioecological barriers some face in improving our cuisine consequences on the climate. In any case, all data points to a need for significant changes to our food systems.

Fortunately, there are multiple opportunities to get involved with shifting to a more sustainable food culture on campus. One example is the Hydroponics Club which officially formed last year as a spin-off of Engineers Without Borders. The club’s president, Ian Lavin, is an engineering student who is passionate about growing fresh produce in new and innovative ways. The club is currently utilizing two hydroponic systems, a deep-water system and a Dutch bucket system, to grow leafy greens and tomatoes, each system lending different benefits for different plants. The water use of the systems is relatively low (10-15 gallons per 5-week growing cycle, in comparison modern toilets require about 1.6 gallons per flush), no land is required to grow the produce, and because the growing environment is controlled (indoors) there are no pesticides required and the production is more dependable. According to Lavin, food in a hydroponic system also grows 25-30% faster than conventional growing methods. Hydroponic growing systems have great potential for addressing some of the world’s food production problems. “By staggering the growing cycles, you can achieve a steady stream of fresh produce year-round,” he says. In addition to exploring hydroponics as a sustainable food production method, the club also recognizes the lack of access to fresh, nutritious foods that some populations face and chooses to donate much of the produce grown to the food pantry on campus.

Last year, the Hydroponics Club applied for a SCIF grant and a space in the Lassonde building to build four hydroponic drip walls that utilize vertical space to grow greens, called the Aqua Project. The first wall will be finished by October and installed in the Lassonde lobby in the coming months. If you’re interested in joining, Lavin says anyone with a passion for produce or growing systems is welcome.

The Hydroponics Club isn’t the only option to engage with sustainable food systems on campus, the Sustainability Office works closely with 5 other food clubs that are building a new food culture in our community:

Edible Campus Gardens
Click the link above to be added to the weekly newsletter detailing upcoming events and volunteer activities.

Slow Food U of U
The Slow Food Student Chapter addresses issues of food justice, access, local food systems and more. E-mail Slowfoodatuofu@gmail.com to request to be added to their e-mail list.

Real Food Challenge
The Real Food Challenge student group works with University Dining Services and administration to build relationships with local producers and shift our institution’s food purchases toward more real food. Fill out a Volunteer Interest Form through the Bennion Center.

Food Recovery Network
The Food Recovery Network is the largest student movement fighting food waste and hunger in America. Click the link above to see how you can get involved with the U’s chapter.

Feed U Pantry
The University of Utah’s food pantry aims to minimize hunger among students, their families, and faculty and staff by providing free, accessible, and nutritious food. Click here to fill out a volunteer form.

Hydroponics Club
E-mail uofuhydroponics@gmail.com to get involved.

REAL FOOD, REAL PROGRESS

Orginially posted on @theU on March 8, 2019.

By Jess Kemper, sustainable food systems manager, Office of Sustainability

Did you know that making good choices about the food we eat not only improves our health, but can support better labor conditions, improve the environment and keep profits in our local economy? Unfortunately, making poor choices can have the opposite impact.

Research conducted by University of Utah students on Dining Services’ purchases shows the U is moving in a positive direction.

In 2015, U President David Pershing signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, making the U part of a national campaign for food justice and committing our Dining Services to buy at least 20 percent “real food” by the year 2020. Food is considered “real” if it falls under one of four categories: humane, ecologically sound, fair or community-based.

The Real Food Challenge is backed by a student group focused on where their food comes from. Every other year, these students perform an audit of Dining Services’ purchases to determine the percentage of real food purchased. Wrapping up the research for the 2017-18, students found that Dining Services purchased 14.6 percent real food which is up from 12.3 percent in 2015.

Successes were seen in real poultry products, a 62 percent rise from 4 percent in 2015 to 66 percent in 2018. This was a result of the shift to a local poultry supplier, Wasatch Meats. Real baked goods rose to 62 percent in 2018 from 56 percent in 2015 by shifting to Beni Bakery Distributors. Real beverage and grocery purchases also saw a 6 percent and 2 percent bump, respectively.

After the audit is finalized the students produce recommendations on all food product purchases. For example, they determined that by only shifting 64 percent of non-real dairy dollars to real dairy the total real food percentage would increase to 20 percent. This would allow the campus to reach its goal one year early. If they switched all tea, coffee and meat to real, the U could report 27 percent, well above the goal, of its food purchases as humane, ecologically sound, fair or community-based.

“University Dining Services is optimistic in meeting the goal by 2020,” said Jennifer Nielsen, sustainability and safety coordinator, Chartwells-University Dining Services. “We are thankful for university and student support as we aim for the 20 percent benchmark. Our goal is to support our hard-working staff and dedicated students by continuing to serve local and quality products expected at the U. We strive to strengthen our U community through robust partnerships, and growing and implementing sustainable ideas.”

To read more about the results of the audit, click here. The next audit will start Fall Semester of 2019. If you are interested in joining the Real Food Challenge student group or researching real food as a paid intern, please e-mail Jessica Kemper at jessica.kemper@utah.edu. And learn more about the short- and long-term objectives related to building sustainable food systems on campus here.

HEALTHIER CAMPUS INITIATIVE

Originally posted on @theU on March 8, 2019.

By Shawn Wood, communications specialist, University of Utah Communications

The University of Utah has adopted guidelines to promote better health on campus through nutrition, physical activity and programming over the next three years through the Healthier Campus Initiative sponsored by the Partnership for a Healthier America.

President Ruth V. Watkins signing the Healthier Campus Initiative.

L-R Jerry Basfor, Robin Marcus, President Watkins and Alexis Pearl Lee.

“I’m impressed with the work being done on campus,” said President Ruth V. Watkins, who signed the initiative on March 7, 2019. “I fully support doing whatever we can to encourage and educate our students, staff and faculty about the importance of engaging in healthy habits and the difference eating well, exercising regularly and taking care of their overall wellness will make throughout their lives.”

The Healthier Campus Initiative partners with 73 colleges and universities across the nation to advance healthy living. Each partner commits to meeting a majority of the guidelines developed by Partnership for a Healthier America in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts.

By joining the initiative, the U has agreed to meet at least 23 separate guidelines in three categories: food and nutrition, physical activity and overall wellness programming.

A new campus wellness committee will guide the U’s work over the next three years. Members are charged with identifying and organizing campus activities that promote living well for students, staff, faculty and visitors. Supporting a One U approach, the broad-based committee will develop recommendations and direction of campus wellness initiatives and promote healthy living on campus and in the community.

The leaders on campus are Robin Marcus, chief wellness officer, U of U Health, and Jerry Basford, associate vice president, Student Affairs. They will steer the committee to support innovative projects led by students, staff and faculty across campus, ranging from sustainable gardens to food-focused courses and cooking workshops, to outdoor recreation trips and active transportation.

“We are thrilled to partner across our campus to continue our move toward the healthiest campus,” said Marcus. “The habits formed in college—including what they eat and how much physical activity they get—can last a lifetime.”

Committee members will include representatives from:

Searching for ‘Soul’-utions

“Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul’-utions for Earthly Survival.”

The Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC) seminar series presents a lecture by Giovanna Di Chiro, Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College.

By Nicholas Apodaca, graduate assistant, Sustainability Office

When we talk about sustainability, we might assume that progressive science policy would naturally uplift and strengthen all communities. Yet in the scientific and political discourse around sustainable practices, many marginalized groups are ignored, despite often being the most vulnerable in our current climate crises. If we are going to fight climate change and build a sustainable world, we need to analyze the contemporary environmental discourse and seek social justice for those most affected.

Giovanna Di Chiro, the Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, has dedicated her career to intersectional scholarship on environmental justice, sustainability and public policy. On February 12, as part of the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar Series, Professor Di Chiro will share her innovative work in her lecture, “Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul’-utions for Earthly Survival.”

Di Chiro began her academic career in biology, then pivoted towards social issues and completed an interdisciplinary Ph.D.  in Environment, Health, and Development at the University of California Santa Cruz. Since then, she has worked in marine and tropical biology, but has always pursued innovative interdisciplinary methods of connecting social justice to science and policy.

Teaching plays an important role in Di Chiro’s work. Drawing on her own experiences as a graduate student, Di Chiro approaches the classroom as a space for cooperation and dialogue. She draws on the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, a radical Brazilian priest who saw the classroom as a space for cultivating intellectuals through critical exploration of inequality and justice. Di Chiro has brought her innovative teaching to universities from Australia to California to Massachusetts, guiding students in community-based learning methods that revolve around those impacted by environmental injustice and creating inclusive spaces for marginalized voices in the classroom.

Di Chiro’s research has often focused on the critical intersection of science policy and social justice. Her first book, Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim. The book traced various case studies around the appropriation of technologies for social justice efforts by activists and marginalized communities.

Currently De Chiro is working on an exciting project titled Embodied Ecologies: Building a Different World on Earth, which draws on feminist theory and activism to explore the lack of inclusion of marginalized peoples and community advocacy in contemporary environmental science and policy discussions.

Outside the classroom, Di Chiro has a long-standing commitment to working with underprivileged communities. While teaching at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, she partnered with Nuestras Raíces, supporting the environmental justice organization’s mission through grant writing and developing local training programs around sustainable development, community agriculture and environmental health. Di Chiro was part of a community partnership that founded Energia, a community-based energy services corporation committed to the “triple bottom line:” employing low income community members, developing a management structure centered on a workers’ cooperative, and promoting energy conservation and general sustainability.

In Pennsylvania, Di Chiro has been working closely with community leaders in North Philadelphia to meet the sustainability needs of underserved and marginalized communities. This has led to the Serenity Soul-ar Collaborative, a unique partnership that pursues environmental justice for predominantly Black, low-income residents in the transition to sustainable green energy in the rapidly gentrifying North Philadelphia. By pushing for sustainable development that is locally-owned and tied to the strong cultural history of black communities in the area, the Serenity Soul-ar Collaborative intends to keep the “soul” in the transition to renewable energy sources.

In her lecture for the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar Series, “Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul-tions for Earthly Survival,” Di Chiro will explore the challenges, successes, and lessons of her work in sustainability and social justice, and what it means for the future of our world. Come by ASB 210 on February 12 from 4 – 5 PM to learn more.

 

Green to Red Tailgate Challenge

By Abby Ghent

Ah, football. The smell of barbecued foods, the sound of cheering fans, and the excitement of watching your home team playing their hearts out. The only thing missing is a little bit of sustainability thrown in. But you can change that: Join in the 1st Annual Green to Red Tailgate Challenge!

At the Oct. 12 home game vs. Arizona, join your fellow fans in a little friendly competition to bring some green into your red-out tailgating. The Green to Red Tailgating Challenge offers a contest to make your tailgate as sustainable as possible. Wear red and be green during the U’s first Green to Red Tailgate Challenge. All tailgates are automatically entered. Winners will be chosen by student sustainability leaders based on how sustainable their tailgate team can be in the areas of waste and recycling, transportation, energy, food purchases, and innovation. Here are some ideas:

  1. Ditch the disposables. Bring reusable cups, dishes, and cutlery. Stay hydrated with reusable jugs of water.
  2. Don’t go Solo! Those iconic red cups are a low-quality plastic. If you need plastic cups, look for clear cups that are plastic #1.
  3. Separate your recyclables. Keep two bins—one for trash and one for recycling. Make sure to avoid food and liquid in the recycling bin.
  4. Go local. You can get all your tailgating needs—including BBQ, brats, grass-fed beef, and of course, beer! (21+)—from Utah companies.
  5. More than cars. Points for people in the group that biked, carpooled, or used public transportation.
  6. Reuse your U decor. You wouldn’t throw out your favorite University of Utah t-shirt! Show your team spirit with U decorations you can use game after game.

And the prizes, you ask?

1st Place: On-field experience at your choice of 2018 football game and dinner in the Tower for four people; recognition of your tailgate team on the video board at the chosen game

2nd Place: Tour of Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center and lunch in the cafeteria for four people

3rd Place: Four tickets to any 2018/19 U sports event of fans’ choosing

 

The competition is part of a larger effort by the Pac-12 Conference to be leaders in both championships and sustainability. The Pac-12 Team Green, a first-of-its-kind in collegiate athletics, promotes sustainability initiatives taking place around the Pac-12 Conference and all 12 of its member universities. Learn more at www.pac-12.com/team-green.

GOOD TO GROW

Originally published in Continuum on September 17, 2018.

Jessica Kemper, coordinator of the U’s Edible Campus Gardens, shows off produce from this season’s abundant harvest at their garden east of Pioneer Memorial Theatre. Kemper helps organize more than 75 student volunteers, who work shifts year round composting, trellising, weeding, planting, and harvesting at both the Pioneer Garden and their plot by the Sill Center. Come fall, there is enough produce to donate to the Feed U Pantry, share with volunteers, and sell at the U’s Farmers Market, which takes place Thursdays just west of the Union Building from mid-August to early October.

THE WASATCH FRONT: A LIVING LAB

Originally posted on @theU on September 17, 2018

By Paul Gabrielsen, science writer, University of Utah Communications

University of Utah scientists know how to turn a challenge into an opportunity. Repeatedly, researchers at the U have developed innovative research solutions to some of the Salt Lake Valley’s most serious environmental issues. Light rail trains sample the air as they dart around the valley. Camera traps keep their eyes on the wildlife in mountain canyons. Climate and hydrological observations track rain, snow, plant stress, groundwater and streamflow from the mountain crest to the valley floor.

All of these environmental factors—earth, air, water and life—are interconnected, though. A change in one has the potential to impact any or all of the others. So how do U researchers respond to this extraordinary complexity? By banding together. This fall, the U launches a new university-wide collaboration called the Wasatch Environmental Observatory.

“We’ve talked about campus as a living lab, and faculty have gotten grants to develop research infrastructure throughout the Wasatch Front,” says Brenda Bowen, director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC). “We have all this infrastructure and we thought: ‘How can we pull this together in a new way to not just study campus as a living lab, but our home, the whole Wasatch Front?’”

This observatory isn’t a single facility like, say, an astronomical observatory. It’s a network of sensors and instruments, stretched all across the Wasatch Front, that collectively monitor multiple environmental metrics. “We’re pulling together all of the systems that were initially funded by individual researchers or large multi-researcher grants to make it into something more than the sum of its parts,” Bowen says.

Part of the observatory is relatively stationary, providing consistent, long-term data. But part is portable and deployable, Bowen says. “As events occur, we can deploy infrastructure into a certain area by pulling together hydrologic, atmospheric and ecological research facilities into a distributed observatory or field station.”

Paul Brooks, professor of geology and geophysics, says that the observatory is a framework for future projects and infrastructure to be added in. State, federal and local agencies, he says, have already expressed interest in tying their instrumentation into the WEO network. The measurements and results from WEO can then be used by those stakeholder agencies. “That’s one of the exciting areas of WEO,” Brooks says. “It takes the new knowledge generated by students and faculty and ports it through as quickly as possible to people on the ground who use that knowledge to make better decisions.”

For Bowen and the GCSC, which brings together faculty from across campus to study environmental issues, WEO is a fulfillment of the center’s mission. “It’s realizing what GCSC strives to be,” Bowen says. “WEO will help integrate everything we’re doing to advance sustainability in our own backyard.” 

WEO will be led by a committee of six faculty members (including Bowen and Brooks) hailing from the departments of Geology & Geophysics, Atmospheric Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the School of Biological Sciences. Beyond that, nearly 40 researchers from 13 different departments and eight colleges already have research or outreach projects associated with WEO.

According to a project summary from GCSC, current facilities to be linked together through WEO include:

  • Distributed hydroclimate, meteorological, biological and hydrological observations in seven catchments spanning the Wasatch Crest through the Great Salt Lake including six closely spaced stations spanning an elevation gradient from the top of Red Butte Creek down through campus and on to the Jordan River
  • Experimental stormwater, landscape, transportation, and architectural design infrastructure on campus
  • Long-term ecological, geological, and snow study sites
  • Seven atmospheric trace gas and climate stations from Hidden Peak (Snowbird) to the Salt Lake Valley floor
  • Light rail-based atmospheric observations distributed across land use and elevational gradients in the Salt Lake Valley (TRAX)
  • Deployable and relocatable high-precision atmospheric and hydrologic observation equipment
  • Co-Located, long-term, and spatially extensive databases from multiple disciplines

All of that equipment requires service, repair and maintenance. So WEO provides for two full-time research technical specialists, Dave Eiriksson and Ryan Bares, to keep the sensors running.

Brooks says the interconnectedness of the WEO sensor systems allows researchers to study the impacts on one environmental system, say, urban development, on others, such as the quality of water in urban streams.

“The idea is that each individual solution we have exists in a broader context,” Brooks says. “We want to be as comprehensive as possible so that the solution to one issue doesn’t then create a new problem down the line that perhaps we didn’t think of.”

Brooks adds that the U is uniquely positioned, with researchers and facilities, to study environmental issues common throughout the West.

“WEO brings those researchers and resources together,” he says, “so instead of addressing these issues piecemeal we have the ability to address them in concert.”

Want to join in?

If you’re considering or conducting environmental research along the Wasatch Front, come to a think tank mixer presented by GCSC on Sept. 26, from 5-7 p.m. at the College of Law, sixth floor, Flynn Faculty Workshop.

Learn more and register here.

 

5 GREEN FEATURES

Originally posted on @theU on September 10, 2018

By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University of Utah Communications

The newly opened Gardner Commons building, which replaced Orson Spencer Hall, was designed with sustainability at its core. Here are five of its green features:

Looking out towards a carbon-neutral future

Gardner Commons is designed to be 100 percent electric-based. As the U installs and purchases more renewable energy like solar and geothermal, the building will eventually become carbon neutral, with no need for any fossil fuels. This design allows the U to move closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

 

 

Looking down to the earth for power

The building is heated and cooled by the first and only geothermal ground-source heat pump on campus. The pump uses the ground as a battery, putting heat into the ground during the summer and taking heat out of the ground during the winter. This is estimated to save more than $70,000 a year in energy costs!

 

 

 

Looking inside for a holistic eating experience

Carolyn’s Kitchen, inside the commons, stocks reusable dishes, silverware and even reusable to-go containers. When it comes to food, this location features a plant-based station that satisfies vegan and vegetarian diets, a rotating station that hosts local vendors including Saffron Valley and local roaster Hugo Coffee, which uses fair trade beans. All this and more makes Carolyn’s Kitchen a holistic eating experience.

 

 

Looking all around for unique, beautiful and ethically sourced building materials

Those funky little dots on the windows? These ‘frits’ act as blinds while still allowing daylight, reducing solar heat gain to the inside of the building and glare from the sun. The horizontal panels on the outside of the building are glass fiber reinforced concrete, made locally. (Other buildings in Salt Lake City with these kinds of panels had them shipped from as far as Germany.) Marble from OSH’s restrooms was repurposed in Gardner to build front entry desks for all departments.

 

 

Don’t forget the Water Conservation Garden

Sandwiched between Gardner Commons and the Eccles School of Business, the Water Conservation Garden will be a beautiful oasis in the middle of campus. Formerly covered with water-consuming grass, the garden will bring water that would be piped through the city’s stormwater drain system to the surface, filter it, use it for irrigation, and send what’s left into the groundwater. The impetus for the garden was an $80,000 grant written by a team of U students and funded by the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. The students also helped bring Red Butte Garden’s staff and expertise to this campus project. Look for the garden in spring 2019.

Farmers Market by the Numbers

Each Thursday during the first seven weeks of school, the University of Utah Farmers Market transforms Tanner Plaza from a sitting area to a thriving community. For anyone who has walked through the space, it is easy to see why the farmers market is a favorite fall activity for students, staff, faculty, and community members alike.

The Double Your Dollars program returned for the fifth year, thanks to support from U of U Health. This program enabled students and SNAP recipients to purchase $1-for-$1 tokens that could be used on grocery-like items.

“It was a great year to be part of the market! Our vendors provided opportunities for students to take home community-based food, and with the Double Your Dollars program these options become more affordable for students” said Jessica Kemper, Farmers Market Manager

Here is a look at the successes of the 2017 season, by the numbers:

10 Seasons

10 Seasons
Picture 1 of 4

10 seasons of increasing access to fresh food and engaging local farms and small businesses. While increased access is still at the forefront of the market's mission, the market expanded this year to include more nonprofit organizations and campus partners.

 
 

10 YEARS OF SUSTAINABILITY

Originally posted in @theU on Sept. 22, 2017.

By Amy Brunvand, Sustainability Librarian.

The University of Utah Sustainability Office turns 10 years old this year, and it is truly amazing to look around campus and realize how much has changed for the better in the past decade. Nowadays, there are campus vegetable gardens with ripe tomatoes and hives of buzzing bees, solar parking canopies that provide both power and shade, electric vehicles plugged into charging stations, crowds of students arriving on TRAX light-rail trains, tasty vegetarian and vegan options on offer at the cafeteria, water bottle refilling stations in most buildings, and plenty of recycling bins to divert waste from the landfill.

The curriculum has changed, too. Undergraduates can earn a number of sustainability-focused degrees and minors, while graduate students in any field can add an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability to their credentials.

Over the years, students, staff and faculty have all contributed to a vision of making the University of Utah a better place. In September, the Sustainability Office will celebrate these milestones and achievements with a Sustainability Showcase highlighting current programs and resources, and a special presentation by Dr. Vandana Shiva who advocates for traditional agriculture, and environmental and social justice issues worldwide.

Join us at the Sustainability Showcase on Friday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the Marriott Library Plaza for food, live music and fun activities. Later this fall, Dr. Vandana Shiva will present a public lecture at Libby Gardner Concert Hall on Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., as part of UtahPresents 2017-18 season. Tickets are available now.

1991-2006: Early Beginnings of Sustainability

Ten years ago, the transition to campus sustainability had barely begun, although a few major milestones laid the foundation. The first big sustainable change was a side effect of trying to cope with limited parking; in 1991, Commuter Services launched the Ed Pass program to give a UTA transit pass to every student and employee on campus. Not only did this encourage people to leave their cars at home, it helped expand Salt Lake City’s light rail network when enthusiastic transit riders from the U showed up at City Council meetings to press for construction of the Red Line TRAX, which opened in 2001.

In 1996, a biology professor named Fred Montague started an “unofficial” campus vegetable garden to teach students about his ideas for ecological gardening. That unofficial garden became the foundation of today’s Edible Campus Gardens, which teaches volunteers how to grow food, supports organic gardening curriculum and sells produce at the University of Utah Farmers Market. By 2006, the university had also constructed the Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Health Sciences Education Building, the first LEED-certified building which incorporated efficient use of energy and water, waste reduction and consideration of human health in the building’s design, construction, operations and maintenance.

These efforts were significant, but they weren’t yet part of a unified drive to implement sustainability on campus.

2007-2014: The Sustainability Office Forms

Divergent efforts began to coalesce in 2007, with the formation of the Sustainability Office (then called the Sustainability Resource Center), underneath Facilities Management.

Something like the Sustainability Office doesn’t happen without visionaries. The idea was originally proposed by students, but it was City & Metropolitan Planning faculty member Craig B. Forster who led the effort to make the idea work. Forster, who became the first director, was a natural fit with sustainability. He was interested in facilitating interdisciplinary research and bridging the gaps between science and public policy. He also had a talent for bringing people together and was deeply involved with the local community. In the summertime, he was often seen at the Pioneer Park farmers’ market playing cimbalom (a kind of hammered dulcimer) with his Hungarian Táncház band.

With only one full-time staff member and some volunteers, the Sustainability Office got to work organizing recycling at football games, installing the first solar panels on campus, setting up a campus farmers’ market, making sure that sustainability was included in the Campus Master Plan and developing a student fee to support student-led sustainability projects through the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. On Earth Day 2008, University of Utah President Michael K. Young signed the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment, dedicating the university to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The year ended in tragedy, though, when Forster died in a hiking accident.

Despite the loss of Forster, the university persevered with a vision for making sustainability integral to its operations. In 2009, after a competitive nationwide search, architect and planner Myron Willson was appointed the next director of the office.

2014-2017: Sustainability is Integrated into Academic Affairs

In 2014, the Sustainability Office made another big change to adapt to the growing campus. Originally, the office was on the organizational chart under Facilities Management with the idea that university employees would take care of recycling, xeriscaping, transit passes and such.

But then an interesting thing happened. Students were getting more and more interested in sustainable change. They wanted to try out their ideas, and the campus was the most natural place for them to do so. With the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) now up and running, grants were available for student-led sustainability projects. The university had become a living laboratory for sustainable change, and sustainability-focused courses had popped up in academic departments all over campus. With so much involvement in interdisciplinary research and learning, the Sustainability Office moved into Academic Affairs, and Associate Vice President for Faculty and law professor Amy Wildermuth was named Chief Sustainability Officer in 2014. Wildermuth added Adrienne Cachelin, Environmental & Sustainability Studies faculty to the team as the director of sustainability education to guide burgeoning sustainability education efforts across campus.

Under Wildermuth, the Sustainability Office also joined forces with the Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC), founded in 2010 by biology professor Jim Ehleringer to foster interdisciplinary sustainability research. Nowadays, under Director Brenda Bowen, Geology & Geophysics faculty, the 129 faculty affiliates of the GCSC represent nine colleges. The center supports graduate students through grants and fellowships, offers an interdisciplinary research seminar series, faculty networking opportunities, assistance for large interdisciplinary grants and core courses in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability curriculum.

Sustainability is You: The Next 10 Years

Today, the Sustainability Office team includes fourteen faculty and staff members as well as numerous student interns and volunteers and continues to expands its scope. Though much progress has been made, sustainability is an ongoing effort, and there is still a lot of work to do.

This year, the Sustainability Office celebrates 10 years of dedicated efforts of faculty, staff and students from across campus. The next 10 years of sustainability at the university will be guided by those in our community who get and remain involved. We invite you to be part of this important work. Join us at one of our fall events to learn about ways you can help make the U a better place for all who live, work and play here.