Dear DU community members,
In March, I outlined our approach for meeting our sustainability goals. I’m thrilled to share that, in just a few months, we have moved the needle significantly by empowering talented, visionary folks on campus to lead this work. Below, I share more about these leaders and their work, as well as an important decision about the proposed university sustainability officer role.
In our quest for carbon neutrality, the Department of Facilities Management & Planning plays a leading role. Lynn Bailey now serves as the director of energy, sustainability, and utilities in facilities. In this role, he helps lead and manage the department’s tremendous sustainability efforts largely through identifying and implementing strategies and technologies that:
• Reduce energy consumption
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
• Improve energy efficiency in buildings
• Expand on-campus renewable energy generation
Since we began tracking our carbon footprint, we have reduced energy consumption by 21%, carbon emissions by 28% and began producing our own renewable electricity though solar projects across campus. The work in facilities is responsible for these leaps forward, and we can only expect to see more progress as Lynn and his energy team remain hyper-focused on sustainability.
Sustainability Center and Curriculum
We have hired Sarah Bexell, PhD, as our faculty director of DU’s Center for Sustainability. She reports to Anne DePrince, professor and associate vice provost for public good strategy and research. She also works closely with Jennifer Karas, senior vice provost for academic affairs. A member of the DU community since 2009, Sarah has served at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, in the Graduate School of Social Work, on DU’s Sustainability Council and as co-lead of the sustainability cohort in for DU Grand Challenges. She spent this past fall learning more about the history and impact of the Center for Sustainability, as well as hiring support roles: a new assistant director and internship program coordinator. Sarah and her team have several projects on the horizon, but in the coming months, they will focus on:
• Building additional sustainability programming for students and supporting faculty. This will help inform in-classroom and out-of-class curriculum on sustainability, supporting the University’s 4D Experience and building community momentum.
• Developing the center’s full strategic plan with a focus on regenerative future—that is, creating food, energy, shelter, and other systems in service of human beings, which work in reciprocity with our planet and draw from indigenous wisdom across the globe.
The Sustainability Council
The University’s Sustainability Council, comprised of faculty, staff, and students from across the University, continue to meet regularly, connect stakeholders, and advance the university’s work and thinking on our biggest sustainability goals. Over the summer, the council drafted a DU Carbon Action Plan, which was presented to the board of trustees. The council is currently onboarding its new chair, Nathan McNichols, who also serves as DU’s facilities coordinator. In the coming months, the council will focus on:
• Ensuring it is working efficiently and effectively as an integral component of DU’s sustainability infrastructure.
• Outlining goals for the coming calendar year.
• Connecting and supporting with partners across campus on sustainability related-work, programs, and initiatives.
University Sustainability Officer
The past eight months have shown that our existing infrastructure boasts supremely capable, skilled, and empowered individuals ready to work together to advance our shared goals. To that end, and in consultation with stakeholders, I have made the decision to not move forward in the creation of a new sustainability officer position at DU.
This decision does not represent a flagging in interest or support of our goals of carbon neutrality by 2030 and transforming DU into a single-use-plastic-free, zero-waste institution; instead, this decision was made through careful consideration of both our existing talent, the dynamic economic landscape, and the desire to ensure DU remains a competitive employer. It is my hope that the University will be able to offer generous merit increases in the next merit cycle. This was a central factor in my decision to be prudent with the allocation of new University resources during an anticipated further economic downturn. DU is already approaching our goals strategically and holistically. The need for another layer or office is difficult to justify in the face of the phenomenal existing work and talent.
I’m proud of this work and of these dedicated individuals. Our goals will not be reached by just one unit or initiative, but through our collective energy, action, and commitment. I look forward to an even greener future at DU.