Sustainability evolves at the intersection between society and the environment. Much of scientific research is aligned along this same interface, so a more refined attention to sustainability illuminates our thinking about how we engage in research. We start toward this Target simply by understanding these parallels through a comprehensive sustainability research inventory.

Our work on the sustainability definition in FY21 guides this next year of our goal to increase sustainability-oriented research. We will further this work through a comprehensive sustainability research inventory.

We will also begin to expand our work beyond the walls of higher education, making our campuses and surrounding communities living laboratories that provide rich collaborations and shared positive outcomes.

Target actions for 2022

View actions for past fiscal years

Sustainability plan guiding principles

  •  Ensure students achieve sustainability literacy
  •  Choose our research conscientiously
  •  Keep equity and inclusion at the center
  •  Use resources responsibly
  •  Decarbonize

AASHE STARS categories:

  • EN 9

    Professional Staff Development & Training

  • EN 13

    Community Service

In conjunction with the working sustainability definition developed in FY21, we will dedicate efforts to identifying the impact of academic research to our communities, faculty and our campuses. It will begin with development of a catalog to identify living lab sustainability-oriented research projects and opportunities across the UW. We will focus resourcing, funding and attention to nurture some of these seminal projects, with lessons learned and outcomes then broadly disseminated to support others down that path. Besides increasing transparency, inclusion and coordination among UW researchers, this will serve a second purpose as the baseline count of sustainability-oriented research projects; this is the count that will be doubled by 2025 according to the target. The catalogue will help to understand the University’s research activities and help develop faculty incentives that would align with this target. As a R1 public institution, we will also work on engagement with the academy to ensure there is broad support to engage our research faculty.

Steps we will take in FY 2022

  1. Continue to highlight existing platforms, tools, and funding resources that support interdisciplinary research projects across UW drawing upon prior work from the UW Sustainability research portal.
  2. Support Target II action to hire a .50 Academic Coordinator through benchmarking what this position description should include, writing the job description and providing a recommendation to the Provost office.
  3. Using the shared sustainability framework as a reference, build on existing UW systems and processes to coordinate centralized reporting that collects information across campuses and assess the degree to which sustainability (following a holistic and shared definition) is incorporated in existing research projects and funding initiatives. 4. Establish a baseline procedure to collect and share information about UW research impact in our communities.

Responsible party

UW Sustainability, Population Health Initiative, EarthLab, Urban@UW

Statuses and linkages

Work with Campus Sustainability Fund, Population Health Initiative, EarthLab, Urban@UW, UW Tacoma, UW Bothell and UW Sustainability using STARS reporting data on sustainability-focused research to identify themes.


  • Funding for a .50 Academic Coordinator from an existing position or a new hire. This could be the position described in Target II.


To establish a baseline metric the second year, we will develop a process for gathering input and assess how we are engaging across our campuses. Quantitative and qualitative data will assess the following measures:

  • Representation of diversity, co-curricular groups and RSOs.
  • Assessments of the outputs and progress the diverse groups were able to realize.
  • Community-based research projects will be identified this year to establish a baseline number beginning with an assessment with Population Health, EarthLab and Urban@ UW.

Through the formal adoption of the UW-wide sustainability definition, develop a program to transform UW’s campuses into living laboratories for sustainability research. Integrating academic and research areas of interest with operational targets and sustainability actions will provide opportunities for all UW members to collaborate on innovative strategies to address some of the most urgent challenges at different scales. This action also entails expanding our work beyond the walls of higher education, across local, regional and global scales; viewing our campuses and the surrounding communities as living laboratories that provide rich opportunities for action oriented, community based participatory research and service learning to address the complexities of sustainability challenges in a responsive and equitable way. Through this action, UW will support more sustainable communities and students fluent in climate justice, sustainability, and resiliency.

Steps we will take in FY 2022

  1. Identify and promote opportunities in which UW researchers and students can create and participate in projects that engage UW Facilities and central administration units to transform the campuses, reduce the operations environmental footprint while alleviating burdens of our existing policies and procedures that negatively impact underrepresented groups on campus.
  2. Develop and promote existing tools, training, and internal funding for culturally responsible forms of research and engagement and appropriate interactions with non-UW members.
  3. Identify funding mechanisms to coordinate faculty focus groups that will provide incentives. This will serve to identify opportunities and barriers for increasing sustainability-related research.
  4. Seek opportunities for meaningful forms of engagement and research through equity and inclusion with local, regional, and global communities to address environmental challenges and causes.

Responsible party

UW Sustainability, Population Health Initiative, Campus Sustainability Fund, EarthLab, Urban@UW

Statuses and linkages

These could be overseen by the suggested Academic Coordinator position.


  • Additional financing needed in FY 2022.

Possible sources:

  • Use revolving funds from any savings in operations linked to the decarbonization program and create task forces specifically to apply for state, regional and national grant opportunities.
  • Create a special sustainability endowment or green fund coming from donations in collaboration with UW Advancement.
  • Identify and strengthen existing sources of funding for research (Campus Sustainability Fund, EarthLab’s Innovation Grants, Population Health Initiative pilot research grants, Urban@UW Spark Grants).


To establish a baseline metric the second year, we will develop a process for gathering input from across our campuses and piloting collaboration projects between academic research and campus operations. Quantitative and qualitative data will assess the following:

  • Number of living lab projects from Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses.
  • Representation of diverse co-curricular groups and RSOs from Seattle, Bothell, Tacoma campuses.
  • Qualitative impact of pilot project(s) with campus operations for faculty.