Key, General Findings

Reflecting on the entire sustainability master planning process, Verdis Group offers the following key, general findings:

  • UNK has many sustainability strengths and successes, but their communication, and thus awareness, is limited. Generally, students have initiated the strengths and successes with which people are most familiar.
  • UNK has accomplished noteworthy sustainability success even since the sustainability master planning process began, e.g. earmarking of $1.5 million for lighting upgrades, overhaul of the recycling system, Zagster bicycle sharing program, Enterprise CarShare program.
  • The extent to which UNK students and employees value sustainability may be significantly underappreciated. Verdis Group was frequently told that the conservative or rural backgrounds of UNK students and employees are barriers to advancing sustainability, but 71% stated that sustainability is important or very important to/at UNK (Verdis Group’s UNK Sustainability Engagement Survey, March 2015).
  • Some departments/offices are reluctant to weigh or prioritize sustainability criteria during decision-making. Sustainability jointly considers social, environmental, and financial responsibility, but some departments/offices only consider price. Even when considering only price, some departments/offices do not incorporate systems thinking: sustainability strategy “A” might have a relatively high price, but savings from sustainability strategy “B” and “C” can offset that price. Indeed, UNK is a public institution of higher education, but other public universities are embracing more comprehensive approaches to decision-making.
  • Sustainability efforts are largely decentralized and uncoordinated among departments/offices, student groups, and administration.
  • The establishment and early efforts of the UNK Sustainability Committee were exceptional, but its recent efforts and energy have slowed.
  • Exciting and timely sustainability opportunities exist with the development of University Village, including renewable energy, progressive streetscapes, and native landscaping.