By Lisa Dulude | Jun 29, 2023
Lisa Dulude

It’s been just over a year since I joined UW Sustainability. The last year has been a full one, as I’ve been learning about the sustainability efforts taking place all across our University, as well as opportunities to go even further.

The month of June is a special one at the UW, as graduates celebrate their accomplishments and look toward the next chapter of their lives. It also brings an end to the academic year, and for many of our staff is an opportunity to take stock of the year’s accomplishments while planning for the year ahead.

For UW Sustainability, we have several big projects in the works that will help lay the foundation for the University’s sustainability path.

First, we are working with a consultant team to conduct a full Greenhouse Gas emissions inventory. This will be the first time the UW has a full comprehensive inventory of all our greenhouse gas emissions from our operations. This includes Scope 1 (our direct emissions, such as the natural gas combusted to provide heat and hot water to buildings, and the gasoline used by our vehicle fleet); Scope 2 (from the electricity we consume, which has minimal emissions as it is primarily from hydropower); and Scope 3 (indirect emissions, such as the emissions from commuting, official air travel, the goods and services UW purchases, and more).

The final inventory and analysis report will be complete in mid September, and will provide new information about the full scope of our emissions. This information will help illuminate areas of opportunity and inform our future actions to meet UW’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

We know that the majority of UW’s direct emissions comes from the natural gas burned at the Seattle campus Power Plant. The UW has created an Energy Transformation strategy to transition away from fossil fuels and electrify the Power Plant, while taking advantage of energy efficiency and waste heat recovery opportunities that this energy transformation will create. We have seen passionate student engagement around the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and the University is working together to move the program forward with urgency.

The updated greenhouse gas inventory will provide critical information for updating and expanding the UW’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), slated to kick-off in the spring of 2024. You will see communication and opportunities for engagement in the SAP update in the upcoming academic year. The SAP is UW’s strategic plan for moving the needle on climate change and intersectional sustainability across our organization, and your input is critical to development and implementation of this important document.

The UW Sustainability Office is working on many other projects as well. Our office continues to work with stakeholders across the university to update UW’s Green Building Standards, such that we have robust and aggressive targets for new construction, major and minor renovations, and HVAC equipment replacement. The updated Green Building Standard will, for the first time, address embodied carbon of building materials, and require projects to meet specific embodied carbon targets. We are grateful for our partnership with UW’s Carbon Leadership Forum on this important initiative. A draft of the updated GBS standard will be available later this year. We’re also implementing a new Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) standard, which is closely aligned with the Green Building Standard update. The LCCA standard will ensure that an analysis is conducted, for all applicable UW projects, to assess operational energy use, associated greenhouse gas emissions, and operation and maintenance costs over the life of the equipment and/or facility. This new standard will help ensure that projects - large and small - are using a standard methodology for informed decision-making.

We’re also excited to have an opportunity to expand the UW Sustainability office team, and will be hiring two positions in the coming months. Collectively, these two positions will be focused on the Sustainability Action Plan update and on-going implementation, as well as increase and enhance our engagement capacity with students. Stay tuned!

UW Sustainability is grateful for our strong partnerships with faculty, staff, and students across the University of Washington to advance sustainability. We have made some big strides in the last year, and with all of the projects in process I am excited about all that we will accomplish together in the upcoming year.