UW Sustainability Action Plan - Fiscal Year 2021

Since establishing the UW Climate Action Plan in 2009, the University has made good progress with reducing its carbon footprint and institutionalizing sustainability. But even as a third-time gold-rated university recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), our work is not done. We have opportunities to improve our sustainability performance and lay out actionable goals that involve all campuses.

Today, we expand our vision beyond the Climate Action Plan with a new Sustainability Action Plan built on five Guiding Principles addressing student learning outcomes, research impact, diversity equity & inclusion, responsible use of our resources, and of course, decarbonization of our energy sources. The plan balances our sustainability goals with the University’s overall priorities to ensure we can execute these actions in a measurable manner. As such, we are applying a financial lens for setting our targets and adherence to measurable outcomes that we will track annually.

Get the Sustainability
Action Plan PDFs


We all have a
part to play

As part of the Sustainability Action Plan, the UW will annually determine what actions to take toward each target over the next fiscal year. If you are interested in learning how you can be a part of the teams working on settings these actions, email sustainabilityplan@uw.edu.

Each year we will survey the campus community for feedback, and post the results here. These survey responses inform the planning process for updating the annual actions. The planning groups use an equity impact analysis tool to determine if the proposed actions of the plan would present barriers or burdens to underrepresented community members at UW.


Ten Targets and
the actions we're taking 2021-2025

How we're doing

We're tracking our progress toward each of the targets. The Sustainability Plan Dashboard includes metrics and progress reports on the targets and actions. Check back often to see how we're doing.

See the plan dashboard

A plan
grounded by these principles


Ensure Students Achieve Sustainability Literacy

The University of Washington prepares its students for their personal success in the broader world, and for our shared success with respect to the planet, and for advancing and sustaining healthy ecosystems. We live in a time of intensive globalization: an increasing global population means we need to carefully share available resources; technology is connecting people across continents with incredible ease; and climate change presents risks that can only be solved through international collaboration.

Every UW student’s education should be organized around their place in the global network. We will ensure that UW graduates have considered and discovered how their personal passions and skills fit into the framework of activity the globe needs to thrive far into the future.


Choose our Research Conscientiously

UW philosophers, economists, urban planners and many others help the changing world organize itself around the challenges of our changing planet. UW is a world leader in advancing scientific understanding of climate change. We are at the leading edge of building the knowledge, and initiating the changes necessary, to make the world a better place.

Just as we must encourage our students to place their focus carefully in the framework of sustainability, so must our researchers know the place that their work occupies in the social-economic-environmental matrix. Each researcher’s program and projects contributes in its unique way to the organization of human life on this planet, and our researchers must ensure that the work they do contributes to our shared prosperity. We will continue to support ground-breaking research and enable innovations that bring sustainability faster, more widely, and equitably.


Keep Equity and Inclusion at the Center

In the five decades since the first Earth Day, a focused environmental rescue effort has focused on saving species, protecting ecosystems, and stabilizing the climate. However ecological losses and climate change have impacts beyond the natural world, calling for more equitable sharing of burdens and benefits.

The University of Washington will center equity and inclusion as fundamental pillars of sustainability. Advancing efforts on climate justice make it urgent to design inclusive strategies that strengthen the capacity of all communities to respond effectively to climate change. As UW implements this Sustainability Strategy, equity and inclusion will guide every step that we take in partnership with communities both locally and around the world. We will work with UW’s global position in mind, attempting to benefit the widest possible constituency, recognizing our impact beyond borders and keeping an eye towards social responsibility.


Use Resources Responsibly

Keeping the planet healthy means living within our ecological means. A growing global population needs to consume raw materials for production, freshwater, topsoil, energy, arable landscape and other resources at rates no greater than they can be replenished or recycled. Future generations – all future generations – must have enough as well.

UW will model environmental stewardship and sustainability with efficient, cost-effective practices throughout its operations. We will reduce consumption of energy, reduce consumption of materials, shift to renewably-produced materials, and increase reuse, recycling, and composting. As a leader in implementing best practices we will demonstrate flexibility in adapting to new information, changing approaches, and emerging technologies. All University operations will be participating, including: planning, design, construction, and performance monitoring of buildings; commuting and professional travel; land use; information technology; and the cycle of procurement, consumption, and disposal of commodities.



In 2007 then-UW president Mark Emmert signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, committing UW to “achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.” In the thirteen years since, we have seen growing awareness and increasing compliance requirements in our own cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell, and the state of Washington. Our local and global landscapes require innovation, cooperation and hope. As an institution of higher education and research, we can and must work together on multi-sector solutions. UW intends to be a leader in decarbonization, and our path toward carbon-neutral campuses will be accelerated accordingly. Successfully integrating the social, economic and environmental forces that define sustainability can set a shining and positive example for future leaders.

What they're saying

As a community that leads with values, we have the responsibility and the tools to take on the challenge of environmental sustainability for the benefit of all Huskies, present and future. I look forward to the impact we will make and the cleaner, more livable and sustainable world that we can create together.
- UW President Ana Mari Cauce