Letter from the executive vice president

It is with great pleasure that I present the University of Notre Dame's 2019 Sustainability Report highlighting our many achievements throughout the year. This report shares our progress towards the commitments outlined in our Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy and sets a roadmap for future endeavors. Thank you for your partnership in helping us achieve our sustainability goals.

In June 2019, University President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., co-sponsored the conference, "The Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home,” at the Vatican. Pope Francis hosted executives from among the world’s leading energy producers and investors, and Fr. Jenkins joined them in signing accords in support of carbon pricing and disclosures on climate change risk.

Our approach is grounded in our Catholic mission with respect for the human condition, respect for our natural resources, and economic viability. This is especially pertinent as we approach the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si' as well as the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day in 2020. Visit the Office of Sustainability's website to learn more about the University’s sustainability goals, initiatives and events.

Shannon Cullinan, Executive Vice President

Progress at a glance

Energy & emissions

Progress Snapshot:

  • Ceased burning coal more than a year ahead of schedule on October 15, 2019. This marked a milestone in our progress to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 83% from 2005 levels by 2050 and eventually become carbon neutral.
  • Commissioned East Plant, which utilizes the geothermal well fields underneath Ricci Fields, to power Dunne, Flaherty, and McCourtney Halls.
  • Announced large-scale solar facility partnership between the University and Indiana Michigan Power, with Notre Dame receiving 40% of output when it is commissioned in late 2020.
  • Broke ground on the 2.5-megawatt hydroelectric generation facility located in Seitz Park on the St. Joseph River.
Pictured above (left) is the hydroelectric groundbreaking ceremony on August 19, 2019 in downtown South Bend. Representatives from the University and South Bend's Venues Parks & Arts participated in the ceremony. The 2.5-megawatt hydroelectric generation facility is located on the dam in the St. Joseph River in downtown South Bend and is expected to generate about seven percent of the University’s electrical needs and offset nearly 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Per an agreement signed in 2016, Notre Dame will lease the site for 50 years after the city transferred a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission exemption to the University to operate a hydro power facility.
Coal Cessation: above left is the University's coal pile in 2015 when University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. announced the ambitious goal to cease burning coal by 2020. Pictured above right is the last bit of coal the University burned on October 15, 2019.


Progress Snapshot:

  • Installed signs across the University highlighting various water best management practices including green roofs, native planting areas, and rain gardens.
  • Gained access to water dashboard displaying real-time consumption across 50 meters (25 buildings) as well as our seven production wells.
  • Provided hydration station at the University-wide opening picnic, orientation weekend, and football Fridays at the Eck Visitor Center.
Signage highlighting various sustainability features were installed across campus, highlighted in the above map: 1. Compton Family Ice Arena Native Planting; 2. Small Pollinator Garden; 3. Stinson-Remick Native Planting & Rain Garden; 5. Morris Inn Green Roof; 6. Joyce Center Green Roof; 6. Corbett Family Hall Green Roof; 7. Duncan Student Center Green Roof; 8. O'Neill Hall Green Roof

building & Construction

Progress Snapshot:

  • The University has met or exceeded LEED certification standards in 14 campus buildings, having earned 9 gold certifications and 5 silver certifications. An additional 3 buildings are pending certification, and 8 construction projects are underway.
  • New construction projects are designed to meet, at a minimum, the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED silver certification standards at the time of construction.
  • When McKenna Hall closed in August for reconstruction, little went to waste (or the landfill). Under the direction of Facilities, Design and Operations, the University saved projectors, monitors, telephones, railings, sinks, faucets and toilet valves to be used elsewhere on campus
Many University departments benefited from 693 pieces of quality furniture and fixtures repurposed from McKenna Hall. The above illustration highlights where furniture went for reuse.

Grotto renovation

The 125-year old Grotto underwent a beautification project during summer. An anonymous benefactor enabled the Grotto's asphalt to be replaced with permeable pavers and sidewalks, a wider staircase, and installation of a shed to house Grotto candles. Permeable materials used in the sidewalks reduce the amount of storm water runoff entering our natural waterways and allow it to naturally drain into the surface.

Pictured above are the stone pavers and the newly finished path leading to the Grotto.


Progress Snapshot:

  • In 2019, the Grind2Energy food waste systems were comissioned and diverted 214 tons of non-consumable food waste from the Center for Culinary Excellence, North Dining Hall, and South Dining Hall. Diverting food waste from the landfill helped us avoid 147 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering the atmosphere while producing over 39,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power 43 homes for a month. Grind2Energy is projected to divert 400+ tons from the landfill annually.
  • Deploying Grind2Energy has enabled the University to capture food that could not otherwise be rescued and partner with Homestead Dairy, a local dairy farm, that transforms the food into clean renewable electricity.
  • Food waste was captured at numerous events throughout 2019, including: the University-wide opening picnic, Campus Services University Operations tailgate, coal-cessation event, and at every Eck Football Friday event.
  • A move-in recycling pilot was conducted aimed at capturing clean cardboard in a segmented stream. Over 3 tons of clean cardboard was captured, which kept the University clean and helped students moving into campus by breaking down boxes outside of residence halls and the Stepan Center.
  • Conducted a comprehensive recycling audit, partnering with our hauler to inspect all exterior recycling containers.
  • Color-coded all exterior trash and recycling containers to match interior bag color yellow/clear = recycling; dark = trash.
  • OZZI reusable containers available for meals purchased at North Dining Hall Marketplace, Cafe De Grasta, Decio Cafe, and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh.
OZZI reusable containers are now available at North Dining Hall Marketplace in addition to Cafe De Grasta, Decio Cafe, and Garbanzo. Save money and do your part to reduce plastic waste! On average, each OZZI container can replace nearly 300 disposables.
Waste Stations were implemented at the Eck Visitor Center for the Football Fridays at the Eck during the 2019 football season. Through partnership with University Catering and the Alumni Association, over 800 pounds of food was diverted from the landfill and 1,115 pounds of clean recycling collected.

Procurement, Licensing & Food Sourcing

Progress Snapshot:

  • Presented the inaugural Sustainability Procurement Partner Award to Kimberly-Clark at the University's Supplier Expo held on October 21. The award honors a vendor that has made sustainability an integral part of their business practices. Kimberly-Clark received this award for their efforts to retrofit all paper-towel dispensers, which allowed the University to use a less expensive and less wasteful towel. The paper-towel conversion resulted in significant reductions in energy consumption (22 percent), water consumption (7 percent), and packaging waste consumption (9,500 pounds). In addition to Kimberly-Clark's paper-towel conversion, they also support our glove recycling efforts and provide environmental analysis to the University highlighting their manufacturing production process.
  • A sustainability clause is included in all Requests For Proposal issued by the University.
  • Garbanzo and North Dining Hall were honored by the Green Restaurant Association for their environmentally conscious accomplishments. Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh received 3-Star Certification Status, which is a first for the University. North Dining Hall received 2-Star Certification Status. Certification is based on 40 sustainability criteria ranging from the amount of vegan and vegetarian dishes served to the efficiency of appliances to recycling practices.
  • Campus Dining provides a minimum of 25% plant-based menu offerings and 33% of all food purchases are made locally, sourced within 250 miles of the University or sourced from the states of Indiana and Michigan.
Notre Dame Vending now offers Tayst coffee pods and compost return service. The coffee pod alternative to K-cups is 100 percent compostable and compatible with office Keurig coffeemakers, and coffee grounds are Rainforest Alliance certified.

Education, research & community outreach

Progress Snapshot:

  • Convened Sustainability Seminar Series: Thinking Globally Acting Locally. The three-part series highlighted leaders in the areas of environmental change initiatives, climate vulnerability, and energy infrastructure.
  • Prepared sustainability exercise in the Moreau First Year Experience Course.
  • 130 sustainability-related courses were offered between Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 across three undergraduate minors, including: Sustainability Minor, Energy Resiliency, and Energy Studies.
  • Over 25 sustainability-related events were offered on campus during the Fall 2019 semester, including: Piloting a low-waste opening picnic, Energy Week, Sustainability Expo, Feast of St. Francis, and Sustainability Fest.
  • Hosted the Green Ribbon Commission on campus, which is comprised of private and public sector members in our region. The University shared best practices around LEED sustainable building practices for the group.
  • Supported Back-the-Bend by hosting a clean-up day at the University student and community garden. Nearly two dozen students cleaned up the garden, tilled and spread compost, built a share-shelf and garden sign, and repaired tools.

sustainability-related Research

Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) Research: ND-ECI brings together over 60 researchers across diverse disciplines to help people and ecosystems adapt to climate change, mitigate the effects of land use impacts, predict species occurrences in a shifting world and improve water quality. The initiative works hand-in-hand with partners to support research that matters to society, answering the most critical environmental questions of our time.

  • A diverse team of researchers received $1.5 million from Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) to develop models utilizing environmental DNA to improve the monitoring of endangered or invasive species in flowing waters. Read more here.
  • Research aimed at studying the link between climate and conflict was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research provides a new perspective on how climate is a contributing factor to conflict and highlights how expectations and adaptation can change predicted outcomes. Read more here.
  • A fourth-year graduate student received recognition from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program through a grant awarded to help continue research understanding nutrient transport from agricultural areas to streams then eventually downstream as well as looking at the harmful impacts of excess nutrients. Read more here.
  • University researchers received $1.46 million from the National Science Foundation to expand a previous study of private, self-supplied water systems into new areas and analyze private well contaminants in suburban, rural, lakefront, and farming communities. The researchers will use crowdsensing for obtaining credible information about water contamination in private wells via citizen science through effective outreach and implementation strategies within the designated areas. Read more here.
  • Convened brown bag seminars given over the lunch hour. These informal seminars are were conducted by both internal and external presenters with the aim to give the ECI community a better understanding of topical research areas and discuss collaborations. The audience is typically a mix of faculty, postdocs, grad students and staff.

NDEnergy Research: Cutting-edge scientific and engineering research aimed at addressing challenges in energy production, generation, and use is the cornerstone of Notre Dame Energy. There are six focus areas of research: Energy Conversion and Efficiency, Smart Distribution and Storage, Sustainable Bio/Fossil Fuels, Sustainable and Secure Nuclear, Transformative Solar, and Transformative Wind.

  • Notre Dame undergraduate students in the Energy Studies Minor studied energy challenges and opportunities facing Puerto Rico, including an immersion trip to Puerto Rico where they studied the energy landscape firsthand. Participants were required to deploy targeted projects to act on what they learned and fulfill the civic engagement component of the experience. Read more here.

Law students launched the Journal on Emerging Technologies (JET). The journal is a student-run publication that would provide a forum for discussing novel technologies that are creating — or are expected to create — significant political, social, or economic effects. These pressing societal questions posed by emerging technologies would be best studied from an interdisciplinary perspective, and the JET was established. The first volume highlights "The Moral Imperative of Green Nuclear Energy Production." JET can be found here.

Above left was our promotional flyer highlighting the three speakers in the seminar series. Above right is Professor Jen Tank giving her seminar on The Indiana Watershed Initative: Fighting For Freshwater Using A Translational Approach, which was held on February 8, 2019.


Progress Snapshot:

  • Crafted, coordinated, and published 24+ articles in NDWorks, including: Notre Dame's President co-signs climate change accords with energy and investor executives at Vatican summit; Let's be clear: Transparent bags are for recycling; Coal Cessation; and Meet Big Stu.
  • Developed sustainability tips of the week for InsideND, TheWeek@ND and social media channels. Tips provided pointers to students, faculty, and staff on how to incorporate sustainability into their daily lives.
  • Expanded communication of sustainability tips for display on the digital message boards throughout campus.
  • Created new sustainability mascot for social media, Stu, who can be found on his brand new instagram sustainable.stu.
  • Developed social media contest which ran the month of October. Congratulations to our first, second, and third prize winners: Pasquerilla West, Welsh Family and Lyons!
  • Created sustainability related video that was utilized at various Notre Dame Athletics events.
  • Sustainability slides were created for University-wide Town Hall meetings, which highlighted various sustainable achievements.
  • Sustainability animations were also developed for University-wide Town Hall meetings to help educate faculty and staff on how to recycle right.
  • Curated sustainability-related Lenten calendar with daily reflections designed to promote individual thought and action during the season. The Lenten calendar has been widely distributed and utilized by other institutions.

Looking Ahead

  • The University’s Utilities Long-Range Plan aims to continue to diversify its energy portfolio by exploring renewable and recoverable energy sources in an effort to subsequently become carbon neutral. Future facilities such as Johnson Family Hall and Raclin Murphy Museum of Art will also use geothermal energy, and some existing facilities may be converted to using geothermal energy.
  • Waste minimization and improvements to the University's recycling program are a top priority for 2020.
  • Water conservation metrics will be established in 2020 based on data made available through the installation of water meters.
  • March 2020 will include a week of sustainability content for Moreau First Year Experience course required for all first year students.
  • Stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as green.nd.edu/events for announcements regarding Earth Day festivities celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and 5th anniversary of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si'.

“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”

- Pope Francis, Encyclical: Laudato Si’

Created By
Office of Sustainability University of Notre Dame


Matt Cashore photos.nd.edu/