Nearly 150 students, faculty, staff and business and community leaders attended the University of Nebraska’s inaugural system-wide Sustainability Summit, held Nov. 21 at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln.
Participants – representing a diverse range of expertise and interests – agreed that a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach will be required to address the sustainability challenges facing Nebraska and the world. That was the thinking behind bringing together a broad group of stakeholders for this fall’s summit, NU System President Ted Carter said.
“The fact that we’re here together today, representing all corners of the University of Nebraska and the broader community, is a strong statement about our commitment to sustainability,” Carter said in his opening remarks.
“It’s always the right thing to look for ways to be better stewards of the resources entrusted to us, both natural and financial. This is important work, and we want to get it right.”
Carter was joined in opening the summit by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, who noted the importance of the event’s location at Innovation Campus, which this year is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Home to buildings built to LEED Silver standards, zero-waste practices, an award-winning Centralized Renewable Energy System and groundbreaking research in food, water and energy, Innovation Campus is a leader in sustainable practices.
The day’s keynote speaker was Rob Hanson, co-founder and CEO of Monolith, a leader in the development of technology to produce affordable, clean hydrogen and carbon black, a raw material used in the manufacture of rubber and plastic.
Hanson noted that there’s no “silver bullet” for advancing sustainability goals; technology, policy and all sectors must work in concert to deliver solutions, he said. Hanson urged students from across the academic disciplines to be engaged in sustainability work.
That sentiment was echoed by student, faculty and staff panelists throughout the day, who stressed the importance of collective and collaborative action in making a difference on sustainability. Student panelists noted that sustainability is relevant to almost every field of study, from agriculture to healthcare, engineering to business.
The day closed with a panel of Nebraska’s public power leaders, who spoke to the state’s unique standing as the only state in the U.S. with 100 percent public energy. They stressed the importance of consumer engagement in sustainability practices.
Recent system-wide sustainability achievements highlighted by Carter at the summit include:
- All four University of Nebraska campuses have sustainability plans in place, with specific, measurable goals for reducing the university’s environmental impact.
- Carter’s strategic plan for the NU System identifies sustainability as a priority, and the Office of the President now has a designated chief sustainability officer as well as a student intern focused on sustainability.
- Last year the university had its largest bond sale in history to help finance building maintenance projects across the campuses, an effort made possible with the State of Nebraska’s partnership. Of the $400 million bond sale, $100 million were “green bonds” designated for sustainable building upgrades – reducing the university’s environmental impact while also saving money.
- A new President’s Sustainability Council, including more than 80 students, faculty and staff from all NU campuses, has been convened to develop recommendations for system-wide sustainability efforts. The goal is to finalize a system-wide plan in 2023.
- University of Nebraska faculty are world leaders in research in agriculture and natural resources, helping to preserve natural resources for future generations and improve the health and quality of life for people in Nebraska and around the world.
The university plans to host a system-wide Sustainability Summit annually going forward, with future summits held at different NU campuses.
Questions about the summit or NU’s sustainability efforts may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.