Strategic Plan Guides Vision for Sustainable Operations at WashU

Washington University in St. Louis has a history of responsibly investing resources to increase the efficiency of our operations and decrease our impact on the environment. In 2010, a collaboration between students, faculty, staff, and the Office of Sustainability culminated in Washington University in St. Louis’ first strategic plan for sustainable operations. In 2015, a new plan was developed, building on the framework established by the original plan and outlining actionable strategies to achieve new goals set for the next five years. Over 100 stakeholders participated in the evaluation of progress against the 2010 baseline and envisioning the steps necessary for visionary progress.

The 2010 Strategic Plan for Sustainable Operations set forth an overarching goal to reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 without purchasing carbon offsets. The plan highlighted seven key areas through which this goal would be achieved: energy reduction, green building, alternative transportation, food systems, landscape, waste, and culture. The new plan expands in each of these areas, and adds an eighth category, water.

Major Achievements to Date

Washington University has seen great success so far in its sustainability initiatives:

  • Since 1990, the Danforth Campus and the Medical Campus have added 4,943,410 new square feet, nearly doubling in size, while holding energy use flat.
  • From 2010 to 2015, the University’s carbon emissions decreased by 17,199 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of permanently removing 3,600 cars from the roads, despite the addition of more than 585,000 square feet of new space for teaching, research, and patient care.
  • Ninety-five percent of that space has exceeded our LEED Silver building minimum (adopted in 2010) — 22 percent is certified LEED Platinum and 73 percent is LEED Gold.
  • The Danforth and Medical campuses installed energy meters in all buildings. This building-level metering system allows us to quickly flag and correct inefficiencies, identify unusually inefficient buildings to target for energy conservation projects, and support incentive programs to drive user engagement in energy conservation.
  • Community engagement efforts have rapidly expanded since 2010. In that time, a myriad of new initiatives, resources, and major accomplishments have come to pass. These include a wide variety of student-run organizations, staff-driven programs, and new interdisciplinary courses focusing on broader issues of sustainability, including energy issues, ecology, public health, and urban design.
  • As a result of our many efforts to reduce waste, including donating unused food, composting initiatives, and converting fryer oil to biodiesel, Washington University Dining Services was awarded the 2014 National Association of College and University Food Services Sustainability Gold Award for Excellence in Waste Management.
  • The university has invested in a variety of alternative transportation initiatives, which have led to a 12.2 percent decrease in the number of single-occupancy vehicles commuting to the Danforth Campus when adjusted for growth of the campus population. Investments include a subsidized CarShare program; free unlimited public transportation access for all full-time staff, faculty, and students; and a new full-time Alternative Transportation Coordinator.

We invite the community at Washington University and beyond to view the 2015 – 2020 Strategic Plan for Sustainable Operations. Let us all celebrate our many achievements while committing to dedicate time, energy and resources to carrying out the strategies within the plan – an even more sustainable future awaits!

2015 – 2020 Strategic Plan for Sustainable Operations