Introduction & Plan Overview


As defined by the Brundtland Commission Report, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, and it emphasizes simultaneous and interconnected social, environmental, and financial/economic dimensions.

Sustainability is a comprehensive approach to managing the effects of global climate change. Global climate change has myriad and complex impacts throughout the world, including

  • More frequent and more extreme weather events
  • Sea level rise
  • Species extinction
  • Water shortages
  • Declining agricultural production
  • Spread of diseases

These impacts have local (i.e., right here in Nebraska) and global economic implications and are particularly pronounced in low-income and marginalized communities.

In recent years, colleges and universities have recognized their role in advancing sustainability. Three of UNK’s peer institutions have signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and set a climate neutrality goal for 2050. Since 2013, five have received an AASHE STARS rating of bronze, silver, or gold. Twelve have a sustainability officer who coordinates sustainability work on campus (see Appendix: Peer Analysis). At UNK, 71% of students and employees think sustainability is important or very important to/at the university, and 72% agree or strongly agree that sustainability supports the university’s mission (Verdis Group’s UNK Sustainability Engagement Survey, March 2015).

Plan Overview

From January through August 2015, the University of Nebraska at Kearney enlisted Verdis Group to engage university stakeholders in a sustainability master planning process to

  • Analyze and benchmark the university’s sustainability performance
  • Develop the university’s sustainability vision and measurable goals
  • Develop and prioritize strategies for achieving the sustainability vision and goals

The topic area sections of the plan include

  • Overarching strategies
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Purchasing
  • Mobility
  • Emissions
  • Academics
  • Campus Culture and Engagement
  • Other strategies

The 2015 Sustainability Master Plan recognizes UNK’s sustainability strengths/successes and identifies opportunities/challenges. Thus, the plan will help UNK to

  • Extensive data analysis of sustainability performance
  • Verdis Group’s UNK Sustainability Engagement Survey (March 2015)
    • Over 700 student and employee respondents
  • Review of existing strategic plans
  • Peer analysis
  • Verdis Group research, experience, and expertise
  • Engagement with hundreds of UNK students and employees - including subject matter experts - to obtain, coordinate, and leverage sustainability information, experiences, and knowledge
    • Meetings, interviews, planning exercises, and site visits with
      • Director of Facilities Management and Planning
      • Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance
      • UNK Sustainability Committee
      • Utilities, Planning Space Management and Construction Services, Grounds Services, Custodial Operations, and Transportation Services
      • Information Technology Services, Residence Life, Business Services, Dining Services, Parking Services, and Communications and Community Relations
      • Residence Hall Association, Student Government, Honors Program, and Enactus