A proposed master plan that links sustainability practices, teaching curricula, research expertise and wellbeing programming is charting new ground for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
The draft Environment, Sustainability and Resilience Master Plan — which is available online through May 29 for students, faculty and staff to review and provide feedback — melds themes from the university’s N2025 strategic vision with United Nations Foundation’s sustainable development goals into a multi-phased path intended to lead to greater integration of environmentally-friendly practices and resiliency programming across the entire campus community.
The master plan was generated by the Chancellor’s Environment, Sustainability and Resilience Commission, which includes nearly 70 members representing student, faculty and staff. The group was formed in answer to a directive from Chancellor Ronnie Green in his 2019 State of the University Address. The commission has been led by co-chairs Prabhakar “Prabs” Shrestha, director of sustainability, and Dave Gosselin, director of the sustainability initiative and environmental studies.
“We’ve taken a very holistic approach in this plan,” Gosselin said. “It addresses environment, sustainability and resiliency issues from a variety of perspectives. And, this unique approach allows the entire university system to be considered — from teaching, learning, research and outreach to how the individual interacts with the existing campus environment.”
The master plan features 10 proposed goals, each offering incremental steps and aspirational outcomes to guide decisions. Aspirations within the goals include:
Creating a Center for Sustainability and Community Innovation to serve as a one-stop shop providing teaching, learning, community engagement and related research resources to the academic community and university stakeholders.
Become a net-zero campus in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and energy use by the year 2050, including the launch of a carbon commitment task force to guide university efforts.
Create and promote a health and wellness program for employees.
Establish a Center for Mindfulness Education and Research that includes interfaces with Husker athletics programs and community organizations, including Lincoln Public Schools.
Launch a sustainability revolving fund to drive innovation and provide small loans for related programs and offer a return on investment. This includes establishing a scholarship for faculty, staff and students and the creation of an annual award for sustainability research.
Other goals within the plan are focused on landscape practices on campus; sustainability and resilience work built into course curricula; working with the campus community and city to develop a multi-modal and sustainable transportation plan; becoming a zero-waste campus by 2030 (non-research projects); strengthening waste management policies; and improve water use efficiencies across the university.
Along with links to the N2025 strategic vision and the university’s land-grant mission, proposals within the master plan were guided by six principles that Green submitted to the commission during a workshop held in August. The workshop was attended by members of the commission and Green’s senior leadership team.
“We’ve spent hundreds of hours creating this master plan and through the entire process, we’ve had full-campus involvement — from top-level administrators who approve programs down to the people in the trenches actually doing the work,” Gosselin said. “Overall, it’s been an inclusive process focused on building momentum toward greater sustainability and wellbeing across the entire university.”
Shrestha said the primary goal of the plan is to help the university become more efficient, resulting in cost savings, increased wellbeing for students, faculty and staff, and a more positive impact on the overall environment.
“In the last few years, the university has made great strides in sustainability and wellbeing,” Shrestha said. “But, it’s time for our institution to go to the next level and commit to bold, new initiatives.
“Implementation of this plan has the potential to put Nebraska among the best of the best in terms of teaching, research and practicing sustainability and wellbeing initiatives.”
The draft Environment, Sustainability and Resilience Master Plan is available online for the campus community to review and provide feedback by May 29. All responses will be considered before the plan is finalized.