Innovative Sustainability at the University of Utah

by Shannon Kennelly

On Thursday, February 21st, the University of Utah will be immersing itself in an active discussion of sustainability on campus. The event, “Innovative Sustainability,” will highlight currently enacted sustainability initiatives underway on campus at the institutional and student levels and also nurture creative ideas for future sustainable efforts on campus. Its mission is to foster a culture of sustainability on campus through education, discussion, inspiration, and collaboration.

The event encompasses the entirety of the 21st and is divided into four parts, each focusing on one component of the mission:

1. Education: Climate Action Plan (PDF) Progress Report

This part of the event focuses on knowledge dissemination. A public announcement of CAP progress will spread awareness, a key component in moving towards sustainability. A majority of students at the University of Utah are unaware of the President’s Climate Commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, and this session is a great way to spread the word.

The CAP Progress Report also highlights the technicalities of “going green,” illustrating the concrete data that goes into determining sustainability. This is important because “sustainable” is often used as a blanket term for anything with environmental considerations, and this report demonstrates the multiple components and empirical aspects of going green.

2. Discussion: Student Session

This session’s importance cannot be understated. Students involved in sustainability initiatives around campus will present to anyone interested. The goal of this session is the dissemination of experience, knowledge, and inspiration from peer-to-peer. Ultimately, these students are the ones who will be responsible for incorporating sustainability into their lives and their communities. Fostering a sustainable community that includes and focuses on younger generations is vital, and that starts with creating a discussion among student peers. Having students that have already taken action on sustainability issues present to other students is extremely important in starting that dialogue.

3. Inspiration: Janine Benyus Keynote

Janine Benyus is a biologist and author of the book Biomimicry, a discipline that uses nature’s designs and processes as inspiration to create sustainable solutions. Her work and ideas are fascinating, making this session achieve the inspiration objective. She has been featured on TED, and her talk can be viewed here.

4. Collaboration: Creative Collaboration

The fourth and final session allows for the inspiration and education of the previous sessions to be applied in problem solving. In this part of the event, students, faculty, staff, and community members will be invited to collaborate and brainstorm realistic, implementable sustainability solutions for campus and the greater community. In a room of round tables, prompts such as “What would you do with $10,000 to achieve greater sustainability on campus, with a focus on one component (energy, transportation, waste cycle, etc) of future, conscious self-sufficiency?” will be presented. This session is a great way to foster ideas, for attendees to network, and for sustainability to take root in the campus community.


Innovative Sustainability will be a day of events focused on education, inspiration, and creating a sustainability community at the University of Utah that continues after the event is over.

Shannon Kennelly is a junior at the University of Utah working toward a BS in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. She is also an intern with the Office of Sustainability working on event planning.

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