Student Voice


June 12, 2024

Department support needed to finalize sustainability plan

April 22, 2022

UW-River Falls’ Sustainable Campus Community Plan, which is being revised for the first time since 2012, reflects the university’s new approach to sustainability.

The Community Plan has been in the revision process since January and was initially scheduled to be completed by the end of this March. However, the revisions have expanded in scope, so the plan will take more time to finalize.

Mark Klapatch-Mathias, sustainability coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said, “We need to make sure that we're integrating sustainability campus-wide. That's part of the reason why we slowed down the process.”

The revised Community Plan will contain 55 priority actions related to sustainability, which fall into four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning and Administration. The plan will also include what the university has already done to support sustainability, and will continue to do.

“The operational categories are where we see the most opportunity for improvement,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “So that's looking at our greenhouse gas emissions and how we're designing and building our buildings. It also goes into our use of renewable energy, food and dining, and our grounds.”

Other departments will need to become involved to further sustainability campus-wide.

“With 55 priority actions, maybe we can do 20 of them, maybe we can do 30 or 40. But we also need those departments to see how they can help support sustainability,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “It's about working collaboratively to figure out what is actually feasible for our campus.”

Several of these priority actions have already been completed or are in the process of being completed. The 2022 UWRF Sustainability Survey, which was completed this February, was one of these actions.

In addition to the Community Plan, sustainability has been a focus of UWRF’s Academic Plan and Strategic Plan as well as other initiatives. “There are other teams now working on some of those plans,” Klapatch-Mathias said.

“Some things could be starting now, some things we might not even start for a few years,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “I think some of the departments will just start working on things right away.”

Klapatch-Mathias also mentioned the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, a system used by campuses worldwide. “I think if we can strategically make a plan and then have various departments move it forward, we'll get back to gold.”

In 2018, UWRF held a gold rating through the STARS program. However, the university now holds a silver rating and looks to regain gold by 2024.

“If we get the plan approved in the fall and have a lot of those conversations this summer about how departments will start working on it, I think we'll just keep seeing sustainability grow and grow,” Klapatch-Mathias said.

In the future, UWRF plans to release annual reports on the state of sustainability on campus, with data on what the university has done to further sustainability that year.  “This will allow us a good framework to do some other communications about sustainability as well,” Klapatch-Mathias said. “I'm hoping we just continue to build that momentum and keep moving forward.”