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Spiders Go Green: Sustainability at UR

By Beth Anne Spacht

March 24, 2020

Guest post by Austen Kelso, Assistant Director of Admission

This year, we received just over 12,000 applications for the class of 2024, translating to roughly 24,000 essays that came across our desks. These essays include the superior, the satisfactory, the serious, the silly…and, yes, even an essay about an appendectomy on the Fourth of July. In-Appendix Day. We liked that one.

Throughout all of these essays, we couldn’t help but notice one trending topic: sustainability. Thousands of your essays addressed climate change, climate action, and the need for sustainable solutions to complicated global issues. Your essays weren’t just about identifying these problems – they were about taking real action and proposing ambitious solutions. We also liked that. And the University of Richmond is thinking the same way.

Beginning in 2007, we started to seriously consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of our own activities. Since then, we’ve made great strides and haven’t looked back. Here are just a few ways we’re helping to become stewards of a more sustainable future.

Become Carbon Neutral by 2050

Carbon neutrality means avoiding, sequestering, or offsetting all University-related greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve set milestone targets of reducing emissions 30% by 2020 and 65% by 2035. Approaching our first milestone, we're poised to have greenhouse gas emission 60% below our 2009 levels. This is, in large part, a result of our 47,000-panel solar array in nearby Spotsylvania County, which allows us to match 100% of our electricity with solar energy. We are proud to be the first school in the southeast to make this happen.
While we’ve made great progress, this is certainly an ambitious goal that will require us to continually evaluate all aspects of University operations. But, Spiders are inherently ambitious creatures, right? We think so.

Achieving 75% Waste Diversion by 2025

Put simply: we will reuse, reduce, recycle, and compost so that 75% of our waste does not go to a landfill. From composting 40,000 pounds of food waste from our dining hall each year to recycling more than 90% of our construction waste, this goal requires thoughtful attention from our whole community – including each individual. Through our Rethink Waste program, we’re continually educating members of our community on what can be recycled and how to properly dispose of waste products. You’ll see this program visibly at work at any of our trash/recycling bins stationed around campus!

Learning and Curriculum

Sustainability starts with education. By increasing the opportunity for UR students to engage in coursework focused on sustainability, we hope to inspire new ways of thinking to develop solutions to these complex global problems. More than half of our academic departments offer coursework in sustainability topics and two-thirds of departments have faculty conducting sustainability research. From Business to Biology, our campus has become a living laboratory that provides students with real-word applications for sustainability theory. Need proof? See it for yourself! Look no further than our Honeybees, Pollinator Meadow, Eco Corridor, and campus Solar Array

*Not featured, but always worth a mention: Our Hungry Goat Population.

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Associate Director of Admission 


A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

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Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Senior Assistant Director of Admission


Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

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