Evaluating sustainability stewardship at higher educational institutions is essential to working towards improving our environment. Many institutions have used environmental footprint indicators as a way to evaluate, track, and improve their impact on the environment. In this article, we present the web-based Integrated Environmental Footprint Tool (IEFT), which allows users to test how changes in certain activities impact nitrogen (N), greenhouse gases (GHG), phosphorus (P), and water (W) footprints for a university campus. This study uses the University of Virginia (UVA) as a model to show the impacts of their existing sustainability plans on multiple footprint indicators. Strategies from the University of Virginia's (UVA) two exisiting action plans, the GHG Action Plan and the N Action Plan, are evaluated to determine their impact on each of the footprints (GHG, N, P, and W). Based on the 2025 goal year, the strategies in these action plans are estimated to reduce the GHG, N, P, and W footprints by −38%, 32%, 25%, and 2.7% respectively. The damage costs associated with GHG and N footprints are assessed and reveal a 38 percent reduction in damage costs for GHG and a 42 percent reduction in costs for N. Using the IEFT to evaluate the impact of these action plan strategies, UVA optimized environmental outcomes. The model shown here can be used at other institutions to evaluate the environmental impact of planned changes to an institutions' operations.
Footprints in Action: How UVA Is Managing Its Sustainability Stewardship
Sustainability and Climate Change