Sustainable UGA
By the Numbers

uga is committed to solving grand challenges and advancing research and scholarship that changes lives.

We’re creating healthier populations; stronger, more resilient communities; and a safer, more secure future for all.  UGA’s sustainability initiatives align with these great commitments to provide meaningful experiential learning for students and valuable support for the communities we serve.  The Office of Sustainability in particular remains committed to developing inspired leaders, stronger communities, and thriving natural systems.

“The University of Georgia remains committed to the best practices in sustainability, experiential education, research, and community engagement.”

Jere W. Morehead, 22nd President of the University of Georgia

operational initiatives

Operationally, UGA strives to lead by example as we enhance campus infrastructure to support instruction and align the physical capital of the University to expand the research enterprise and fuel innovation and entrepreneurship.

  • Today, UGA is using 29% less water per sq. ft. and 21% less energy per sq. ft. than in 2007.
    • Recent increases in energy efficiency include upgrades to the South Campus chilled water loop and the expansion of District Energy Plant 2 to allow for the removal of aging building-level chillers.
    • To further reduce potable water use in the future, UGA is investigating opportunities for large-scale reclaimed water use for non-consumptive purposes such as heating and cooling campus buildings and irrigating campus landscapes through a partnership with Athens-Clarke County.
  • UGA has reduced our carbon footprint and gross greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from a 2010 baseline, and a 23% reduction in net emissions including offsets form UGA timber holdings through the state.
    • We will further mitigate climate change as we incorporate 20 new electric buses into our bus fleet in the coming year.  UGA Campus Transit is one of the largest campus transit systems in the country; this innovative shift will also make it one of the most sustainable – eliminating tailpipe emissions, reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by about two-thirds for each new bus, and significantly decreasing fuel use and annual operating costs.
    • The UGA solar tracking demonstration project generates research opportunities and more than enough solar electricity to power our new electric bus fleet; hopefully, in the future we will continue to see more onsite renewable energy as we strive toward a clean energy future at UGA. 
  • In the past year, UGA Dining Services received Green Restaurant Association Certification for Bolton and other campus dining halls, created and sold salads using fresh greens from UGAdren and hydroponic growing towers in Oglethorpe Dining Commons, continued to enhance programs that make meal plans more accessible to all students, and took further steps to eliminate styrofoam and plastics in dining operations – including the move to paper cups at Chik-Fil A and compostable straws in all dining locations. 
  • In FY19, UGA recycled 651 tons of materials from campus. 
    • This number is significantly less than previous years due in part to global market changes and increased costs.  We need to continue to strive to reduce or eliminate waste in our operations and our daily lives. A campus waste reduction program, in-room recycling in UGA Housing, and other initiatives are being implemented to provide tools and resources to reduce single-use items, divert compostable and recyclable materials from the landfill, and increase awareness of what is – and is not – recyclable in Athens.  One area of waste reduction in which UGA continues to lead is in composting of organic materials from campus dining operations, landscape management, and animal facilities – and student interns in the Office of Sustainability are servicing compost bins in more than 80 buildings using a small fleet of electric bikes. 

Interdisciplinary Certificate In Sustainability

The Certificate in Sustainability is thriving!  There are currently more than 250 students enrolled in the Sustainability Certificate representing 70 academic majors, making it one of the largest and most diverse certificate programs on campus.  Our students engage in interdisciplinary, experiential learning to address global challenges through local, sustainable solutions.

To date, 92 students have graduated with the Certificate in Sustainability, and (today) we are pleased to celebrate 00 new graduates from 00 different schools and colleges at UGA.  Two of the student Capstone projects completed this semester include the —-, and the UGA B-Collaborative which is helping Georgia businesses expand positive impacts in their communities, doing good while doing well.

    Office of Sustainability Student Internship Program

      To date, the Office of Sustainability has provided 422 student internship positions, including the 29 dedicated students working this semester.  Interns are learning by doing, gaining professional development, leadership training, and core skills required to enact positive change. (I look forward to hearing more about the good work these students are doing during today’s event.)

      As part of the internship program, the Partnership for a Sustainable Athens creates community-driven experiential learning opportunities, providing meaningful support for community partners and valuable leadership development for our students.  This semester, students in the Partnership are serving the Athens-Clarke County Office of Sustainability, ACC Recycling Division, Creature Comforts Brewing Company, and Envision Athens.


        Since the Student Green Fee was established in 2010, $290,000 in Campus Sustainability Grants have been awarded to fund 78 student-led projects designed to make a tangible difference on campus and in the local community.  Some of these projects have included initiation of water bottle filling stations on campus, the establishment of the Chew Crew prescribed grazing project, the creation of floating wetlands in Lake Herrick, the installation of rainwater harvesting and solar panels at UGArden, and many more.

          FOODSHED UGA

          With the goal of creating a healthier future for all, the UGA Foodshed Initiative is engaging the campus and community in sustainability and innovation through food that we grow, eat, and waste.  This interdisciplinary, experiential learning initiative is leveraging a network of experts and organizations – both on and off-campus – to promote sustainable food production, increase food security, reduce food waste, and increase awareness of the impacts of our food choices.  

          Two ongoing examples of UGA stewardship and innovation in the local food system include UGArden and Campus Kitchen.  In the past year, the UGArden student-run teaching and demonstration farm has engaged more than 500 volunteers and produced nearly 8,000 pounds of fresh wholesome food, and Campus Kitchen recovered more than 67,000 of pounds of food that might have otherwise been wasted to provide groceries and more than 10,500 nutritious meals to 59 food-insecure families in Athens.