This flagship university is improving the world and addressing grand global challenges through better local solutions. Sustainability research, education, service and campus operations are hallmarks of UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan, and there has been marked progress toward realizing those goals.

Inspired Leaders
Stronger Communities
Thriving Natural Systems

UGA has exceeded the Georgia Governor’s Energy Challenge, and currently is using 20 percent less energy per square foot than in 2007, with a goal of 25 percent or greater reduction by 2020. Infrastructure improvements from centralized chillers at district energy plants to steam pit insulation, LED lighting retrofits and the UGA Green Lab Program also have led to energy savings and reduced costs, and UGA has installed more than one megawatt of renewable solar energy on its main campus.

The university is striving to reduce the amount of waste sent to local landfills by 65 percent by 2020. 

With a long way to go to reach this ambitious target, UGA is making progress by providing infrastructure that makes it just as easy to recycle materials on campus as it is to throw them away, and by composting all organic materials from every dining hall.

Because UGA operates the largest campus transit system in the country, with over 11 million annual riders, the university plans to convert one-third of its buses to all electric vehicles in 2017, significantly reducing tailpipe emissions, maintenance and operating costs. Overall, the school has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than eight percent since 2010. These initiatives and others are helping UGA to be a better neighbor and more responsible steward of natural and financial resources.

The university also is deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of students, faculty, staff and visitors. Infrastructure, planning, and design initiatives, as well as health and wellness programs, create healthy interior and exterior environments and opportunities for personal wellness. The entire UGA―Athens campus is designated an arboretum and a Tree Campus USA. In the last two decades, more than 60 acres of new green space have replaced previously paved areas to create an increasingly pedestrian-friendly and ecologically functional landscape.

UGA is designated a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly University with over 16 miles of bike lanes, trails, and shared use paths on campus and over 600 participants in the Bulldog Bikes bike share program. The campus is tobacco-free, and the decommissioning of UGA’s only coal-fired boiler in 2015 has further contributed to healthy outdoor air throughout the community. Campus buildings are maintained through a certified green cleaning program to provide healthy interior environments for all occupants. Approximately 20 percent of all food items sold by UGA Food Services come from Georgia or bordering states, and healthy, nutritious options are available at every meal in every dining hall.

UGA students are directly involved in growing and providing wholesome foods to community members in need through the student-run UGArden Education & Demonstration Farm and the UGA Campus Kitchen. The Be Well UGA program promotes emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, social, and spiritual wellbeing for all at UGA. Numerous programs and services are available to students experiencing challenging situations, such as EMBARK UGA, which is geared toward increasing college access and retention for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness; the UGA Student Food Pantry and Hygiene Closet; and the reCYCLE program, which provides refurbished bicycles free of charge to students in need of affordable transportation options.

UGA’s Work/Life Balance program provides a central location for relevant services and opportunities to assist faculty and staff in managing life’s challenges, from workplace stress to caring for family members. In addition, UGA Recreational Sports promotes healthy lifestyle choices by providing development, growth, and education for the campus and local community, including engaging outdoor recreation trips and clinics. With a school motto that reads “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things," education and innovation are central to UGA’s mission. UGA is committed to solving grand challenges for Georgia, the United States, and the world, as well as to training students who are capable of solving real-world, multifaceted problems with no simple solutions. 

All undergraduate students must satisfy the Environmental Awareness Requirement, including a basic understanding of the interactions between human activity and the environment at local, regional, or global scales. All students also must engage in at least one experiential learning activity that enhances learning and positions them for success after graduation.In addition to numerous graduate and undergraduate degree programs related to sustainability, the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Sustainability provides students with a foundation in the principles and practice of social, environmental, and economic sustainability, as well as a valued credential to enhance their competitiveness in the job market.

Overall, UGA offers more than 430 sustainability-related courses, as well as faculty resources to promote integration of sustainability across the curriculum. The Office of Sustainability Student Internship Program provides experiential learning, leadership, and professional development while having a positive and tangible effect on the UGA and Athens communities. Since 2010, the Office of Sustainability has provided over 250 internship opportunities to students in 62 different degree programs for a total of over 31,000 hours of service. The Office of Sustainability also has provided $210,000 in campus sustainability grants to fund 58 student-led projects, many of which are now ongoing operational and experiential learning programs. Overall in 2015, UGA researchers received over $185 million in external research funding to solve grand challenges related to sustainable agriculture, water resources, bioenergy, waste reduction, public health, and much more.