Sustainability Review A look back at the 2020-2021 Academic Year

The 2020-21 Sustainability Review is a snapshot of various sustainability and climate action initiatives on campus. Explore the report to learn more about how UMBC is working towards the goal of carbon neutrality, engaging stakeholders about sustainability, and empowering the campus to pursue innovative projects.

Message From the Sustainability Matters Staff

Dear Friends & Allies,

Ryan Kmetz and Kayla Hickman would like to take a moment to thank and acknowledge all of you for all of the hard work you have done over the course of this past year. As a community we have faced many challenges this past year, so it is only fitting that as a community we also celebrate our successes! The Sustainability Office is proud to highlight and share some of our collective achievements that were only successful because of your collaboration.

As sustainability continues to evolve, both on campus and in the world, it is important to remember where we came from and to understand where we’re headed. UMBC has a long tradition of environmental stewardship dating back to the 1970s, and now, 50 years later the university’s commitment to advancing sustainability is stronger than ever. For example, back then, UMBC served as waste diversion leader by establishing a paper collection point for the nascent recycling efforts sweeping across the county. Today, we continue to forge forward, by offering plastic films collection for the emerging recycling efforts in that industry. With that in mind, we have two big announcements concerning waste on campus. Starting in the fall semester UMBC will have over 40 plastic film recycling points throughout the campus and will offer a pilot program providing an opportunity for students to participate in compost collection at their on-campus residential homes. Both of these initiatives were championed by the efforts of many students from a plethora of campus organizations and academic interests.

However, as we look towards the future, we must also consider the myriad of potential impacts related to climate change. UMBC is currently progressing towards a net-zero future and achieving carbon neutrality no later than 2050. The university, through various efforts, has decreased emissions by 44% since 2007. This past year, 40% of our electricity use was attributed to renewable sources of energy - including hydroelectric, solar, and wind. UMBC is also working to bolster our community’s adaptive capacity by understanding, and quantifying, climate impacts. Through this effort, we are focused on empowering our community by launching new tools that not only identify natural hazards but also focus on environmental social justice.

Finally, we are pleased to share this first annual sustainability report with you. This report is structured to provide a snapshot of some of the achievements and milestones from the previous year. It is meant to serve as an annual companion report to the Eco-Ambassador Report and Greenhouse Gas Report. We wish you a safe summer and all the best in the new school year.


Ryan Kmetz, Asst. Dir. of Sustainability & Kayla Hickman, Sustainability Coordinator

Climate Action Progress

UMBC has reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions by 44% since 2007 (the baseline year for UMBC's Climate Action Plan). This year's reduction equates to over 37,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTeCO2). This is the same amount of annual emissions produced by the energy use of 4,500 average US homes.

UMBC's Net Zero Energy Strategy continued to progress as the campus received 40% of its electricity from renewable sources via Power Purchase Agreements and Renewable Energy Certificates.

Sustainability Leadership

2020 Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education (GCSHE)

The Sustainability Office spoke at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's (AASHE) GCSHE conference. UMBC's Sustainability Office facilitated a discussion with other universities and sustainability professionals, from around the world, about the role of GIS in campus engagement. Several of UMBC’s cutting-edge sustainability GIS web applications were showcased as examples for other institutions to consider as they prepare their own GIS engagement tools

2021 Climate Action Pursuit

Second Nature's Climate Action Pursuit focused on learning, planning, acting, and leading on climate and justice on campus, in the community and across society. UMBC was represented by the Office of Sustainability and featured, as an expert, during a Next Level Conversations Panel about community engagement. UMBC's session was focused on the inclusion of environmental social justice metrics into hazard assessments and the impact the data points may have on Resilience.

Baltimore Collegetown Network Collaboration Events

Baltimore Colleges and Universities for a Sustainable Environment (B’CaUSE) is a coalition of sustainability staff and other campus representatives from colleges and universities within the Baltimore Collegetown Network. The mission of B’CaUSE is to foster collaboration, share ideas and best practices, and facilitate joint projects to advance campus and regional sustainability goals.

UMBC led a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and Towson to host a virtual community screening of The Story of Plastic for community members within the B’CaUSE institutions. 170 people registered and received a link to watch the documentary. After the documentary screening event participants were invited to a panel discussion with local zero waste advocates including Delegate Brooke Lierman and South Baltimore Community Land Trust organizer Terriq Thomas, which was facilitated by students.

Education & Engagement


Eco-Ambassadors (EA) play a vital role in the promotion of sustainable living and is one of the longest standing sustainability programs at UMBC. Eco-Ambassadors serve a year-long term, working during the Fall and Spring semesters. The EA approach draws from the idea that sustainable behavior change is most effective when it involves direct contact with people and is carried out at the community level. For the first time this year the program was run completely virtual, but that did not stop our ambassadors from building a culture of sustainability within our campus community.

Our office was lucky to have four amazing Ambassadors this past year:

  • Erin Kosloski ‘22, Cognitive Science (Interdisciplinary Studies)
  • Laura Ventura ‘22, Biological Sciences
  • Tarin Wilks ‘22, Financial Economics
  • Megan O’Neill ‘23, Graphic Design

The ambassadors ran 4 campaigns focused on engaging students in sustainability at-home. Some campaign highlights include running a Meatless March challenge, Crash Course on the Maryland Legislative Session virtual event, and hosting an intercampus student sustainability coalition.

Learn more about the ambassador's impact with our Eco-Ambassador Report!

Plastic Film Diversion Program & Grant

UMBC received The Forever Maryland Foundation awarded UMBC a $4,000 Keep Maryland Beautiful Clean Up and Green Up Grant. The award provides support to significantly expand the plastic bags and films collection program that debuted on campus in 2019. Student leaders, with the support of the Sustainability Office, championed the pilot initiative for plastic film recycling on campus. Starting in the Fall of 2021 the UMBC community will have access to over 40 plastic film recycling collection points located throughout the campus. It is estimated this program will divert over 4 tons of plastic films from the landfill each year which is equal to about 44 barrels of oil!

Residential Life Composting Pilot Program

The Office of Sustainability have partnered with the Student Government Association (SGA), Resident Student Association (RSA), Chartwells, and Residential Life to provide a composting drop off location for residential students. This will allow students living on campus to collect compost in their residence.

This pilot program will be available for 50 residential students for the Fall 2021 semester, so stay tuned if you are interested!

Interactive Tools & Datasets

Many things transitioned to a virtual format this past year and this too includes UMBC’s Sustainability Matters efforts. The UMBC community gained access to 11 new web based tools to learn more about sustainability, climate change, and environmental justice efforts on and around campus.



The Office of Sustainability found power in collaboration to provide engaging events to build a sense of belonging within our virtual UMBC community. We organized 15 different events ranging from topics around local environmental injustices to climate distress. The events were hosted on a variety of platforms and utilized different online engagement tools.

Event Spotlight: Combating Toxic Injustices

Through a collaborative effort between Goucher College, Towson University and local Baltimore grassroots organizations, our office hosted an event series for the Spring 2021 semester. Combating Toxic Injustices: Grassroots Solutions for Healthy Communities was a storytelling series to open a dialogue about environmental injustice in Baltimore, the local rich history of grassroots organizing, and community led solutions.

Our institutions hosted two panel discussions in February and March featuring experts, organizers, and local politicians from Baltimore to speak on the intersections of public health, inequitable waste systems, redlining, and systematic racism. This set the stage for our community to be informed on the local issues and actively participate in Baltimore’s First Annual Zero-Waste Day hosted by South Baltimore Community Land Trust (SBCLT) on Earth Day.

"It was riveting... All the panelists were spot on and very knowledgeable. I was very impressed that they had such facility with the Q and A - they definitely know their stuff." - Event Attendee

Event Speakers:

Environmental Inequities: Public Health Impacts in Baltimore City

  • Lauren Deanes: Environmental Health PhD Student, John Hopkins University
  • Gwen Dubois': MD, MPH Board of Directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Leah Kelly: Senior Attorney for Environmental Integrity Project
  • Chris Heaney: Associate Professor for John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Phylicia Porter: Democratic-Elect, Baltimore City Council District 10

The Many Lives of Trash in the Baltimore Region

  • Sya Kedzior: Associate Professor within Towson University’s Department of Geography & Environmental Planning
  • Dante Swinton: Divert Baltimore Program Coordinator, Environmental Justice Researcher, & Organizer for Energy Justice Network
  • Logan Worsley: Senior Research Analyst for International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Chaz Miller: Waste & Recycling Expert, Speaker, & Columnist for Waste 360 Magazine
  • Leana Houser: Waste Reduction & Recycling Manager for Johns Hopkins University

Our event series was recorded & available to watch on our YouTube channel if you missed the event!


Sustainable Landscaping

Facilities Management’s Grounds Shop began its transition from gasoline-powered landscaping equipment to electric-powered equipment. This electrification initiative has resulted in the introduction of several electric-powered blowers, weedeaters, hedge trimmers, and a push mower. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), using a gas lawn mower for one hour emits as much pollution as driving a car 300 miles. That’s the same distance from here to Hartford, CT! Most electric landscaping equipment makes as much noise as group conversation or a washing machine (~75 decibels). While traditional gas-powered equipment typically produces between 90-95 decibels which is the same amount of noise as a passing motorcycle.

LEED Certification

As part of its commitment to sustainability, UMBC sets a high standard for performance in its major renovations and new buildings. New buildings, like the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena and The Center for Well-Being, have been designed and constructed to meet or exceed the LEED Silver rating as established by the US Green Building Council. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems provide a measure of green strategies aimed at preventing pollution, reducing waste and energy use, and improving indoor environmental quality. The resulting high-performance buildings will demonstrate improved energy efficiency and resource conservation, leading to a smaller carbon footprint.

Maryland Department of the Environment’s Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award

The Maryland Department of the Environment’s Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award recognizes organizations that have shown a strong commitment to the implementation of sustainable practices, the demonstration of measurable results, and the continual improvement of environmental performance. Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award winners represent a variety of facility types and sizes, but all have several key factors in common that contribute to their success:

  • An organization-wide commitment to sustainability
  • A green team that meets on a regular basis
  • Annual environmental goals
  • Tracking of sustainability metrics to measure results

The Maryland Green Registry is a voluntary program that promotes and recognizes environmentally sustainable practices in organizations of all types and sizes across the State. UMBC received this award specifically for our sustainability successes related to Plastic Film Diversion and Climate Action Planning.