Office of Sustainability to draft new sustainability plan


Tyler Nachilly

The Office of Sustainability in Marsh Hall April 28. The Office is working on a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan for the University and intends to release the plan in the fall.

The UVM Sustainability Plan working group is developing the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, slated for release in August, said Elizabeth Palchak, director of the Office of Sustainability. 

Palchak formed the working group in December 2021. The group released a Sustainability Plan Timeline outlining their goals to complete the plan, Palchak said. As of now, they’ve developed four focus areas and are gathering community input. They will draft the plan over the summer. 

Their current four focus areas are decarbonization, operations, research and learning, and governance and people, Palchak said. They will create specific goals for these themes in May.

UVM announced the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan Oct. 18, 2021, after the University failed to meet its Climate Action Plan by 2020, according to an Oct. 27, 2021 Cynic article.

The University committed to carbon neutrality in electricity production by 2015, in thermal energy production by 2020 and in commuting, business and air travel by 2025, but only reduced their use of thermal energy emissions by 12.74% by 2015, according to an April 19, 2021 Cynic article.

SGA passed a resolution March 23, 2021, calling for the University to release a new climate plan with updated goals and deadlines, the April 19 article stated. 

The Sustainability Plan working group has 15 members including Palchak, according to their website. The members are faculty representatives Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Gillian Galford, Marilyn Lucas and Asim Zia, administrative representative Tricia Coté and support staff Clare Nelson, Casey Smith and Claire Forbes, Palchak said. 

It also includes sophomore Abigail Berkowitz, SGA senator on the Committee on the Environment, senior Ben Ogden and graduate students Sarra Talib and Naomi Parekh. 

“I’m psyched to get asked about this because we’re doing a lot of work, we’re right on track and I’m really excited about it,” Palchak said. “I think the folx on the workgroup are too.”

The working group hopes to revisit and potentially revise the focus areas of the plan every three to five years, Palchak said. 

The decarbonization subcommittee is developing goals that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions at UVM, she said.

The operations subcommittee is setting goals that will help reduce UVM’s food waste, bring in more local food and improve UVM’s recycling capabilities, Palchak said. 

The research and learning subcommittee is developing better ways to engage the UVM community in sustainability practices as well as supporting any sustainability research that is being done, Palchak said. 

The governance and people subcommittee is developing a workforce that has the necessary training and support needed to make a clean energy transition through education, Palchak said. 

“UVM has a great history of being a sustainability leader,” she said. “Our goal is to connect all of these efforts and get us all moving in the same direction and essentially create a roadmap for sustainability.” 

Abigail Berkowitz is happy to see people holding themselves accountable for the promises that they’ve made, they said. 

Berkowitz appreciates the experience of being a part of the working group and developing a better relationship with people in the OoS, they said.

“Working with this group has definitely made me realize that all of these people in this working group are just like us,” they said. “They want to see things change just as much as we do as students.”

The working group released a survey April 19 in an email to students, Palchak said. As the working group continues to develop the plan, they hope students will provide feedback through the survey.