Fiscal Year 2024 update to the UW Sustainability Plan

Updated October 2023

The University of Washington adopted its first Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) in July 2020, identifying 10 measurable targets, generally with a five-year window. The intent of the Plan was to annually determine the actions to be taken toward those targets.

Over the first three years of SAP implementation, UW has made significant progress toward these targets, while also recognizing there are opportunities for improvement. Over the past year, the UW Sustainability office has begun the strategic process of looking toward a revamped update of the Plan, which will drive the UW’s sustainability efforts after the existing Plan’s end date of 2025. 

In Fiscal Year 2023 (July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023), UW Sustainability led the process of creating a shared vision and mission for sustainability at UW. These statements, created through collaboration with the Plan’s Executive Committee, the Environmental Stewardship Committee, faculty, staff and students, build on the previous work of creating a common definition of sustainability. Together the mission, vision and definition of sustainability provide a clear, shared foundation for our sustainability work.

Also in FY2023, the UW started work with Cascadia Consulting Group to conduct a greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) inventory and analysis report, with an expected delivery and publication in Fall 2023. This will mark the first time UW has conducted a consumption-based inventory as part of its Scope 3 emissions (i.e. indirect emissions), along with a comprehensive look at Scope 1 and 2 (i.e. direct emissions from electricity, and the combustion of fossil fuels). The report will provide a holistic analysis of GHG reduction progress over a 2005 baseline, as well as GHG composition at the three campuses, self-sustaining units, sectors and subsectors. A key element of the final report will be a ‘contribution analysis’ of key changes in operations-based emissions, and a wedge analysis of pathways to meet near and long-term organizational GHG reduction targets. This level of analysis is necessary to better identify opportunities and inform decision-making for UW emission reduction efforts, as well as providing solid data to help set priorities and targets for the future version of our Sustainability Action Plan.

As we look toward the next iteration of our Sustainability Action Plan, we haven’t lost sight of the work already in-progress towards UW’s sustainability commitments. This report aims to capture the work done under the existing Plan in the Fiscal Year 2023 and the new actions for Fiscal Year 2024 which started on July 1, 2023.

Energy remains a key focus

Over the past year, a major priority of UW’s sustainability work has been the early work of implementing our strategy to transition the Power Plant away from fossil fuels. This energy transformation project is necessary to meet the requirements of Washington State’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) as well as the State’s Clean Buildings Performance Standards (CBPS). The Power Plant currently burns natural gas to make steam, which provides heat and hot water to nearly all of the Seattle campus buildings and medical center. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by the Plant is well above the CCA threshold. UW’s five-part Energy Transformation Strategy calls for updating the Seattle campus heating system from steam to hot water and electrifying the system with commercial heat pumps. 
This energy transformation project is a specific action item under Target 10 in the Sustainability Action Plan, and will continue to be a central focus of the University for the foreseeable future. In August of 2023, the UW began work with an engineering consultant to create a detailed implementation plan for this project. 

10 Targets: