Author:   Published:  12/16/19

Students holding up pictures


The University of Maryland became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (now called the Carbon Commitment) in 2007 and finished its first Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2009. Many faculty, staff, and students worked tirelessly over the years implementing CAP strategies and keeping the university on track with meeting its targets. By 2018, the university had achieved its targets of reducing its carbon emissions by 50% and enhancing opportunities for all students to learn about sustainability and climate action.

CAP 2.0 is an update to the original CAP and clarifies the university’s strategies for meeting upcoming targets, including a 60% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025. This is an aggressive target to hit, which is why this CAP 2.0 focuses on strategies that are currently being implemented or need to be implemented within the next several years to meet near-term goals. The university is committed to achieving carbon neutrality for all scopes of emissions by 2050 and will make major updates to CAP at least every five years to include strategies that are based on the best knowledge and technology available at that time.

This new online format and numbering system (2.x) is a flexible format for CAP, making it easy to publish minor updates (ex. version 2.1, 2.2, etc.), including annual status reports on each strategy. As a “living document,” the Office of Sustainability welcomes your feedback and ideas to help the university meet and exceed its goals. Please email to share your thoughts.



University of Maryland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions (MTCO2e; from 2005 to 2018) by Source Type

The University of Maryland has already achieved many of its original CAP goals. Notable accomplishments include:

  • Reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2005 to 2018 despite campus growth
  • Getting 89% of its purchased electricity from renewable sources in 2018
  • Offsetting 100% of the university’s air travel emissions associated with faculty, staff, and student travel
  • Implementing several performance contracts, reducing energy consumption 20% or more in select buildings
  • Increasing the percentage of commuters who choose alternative transportation for daily commuting
  • Creating a Sustainability Studies Minor – one of the largest minors at UMD
  • Educating more than 18,000 students in their first semester at UMD about sustainability challenges and opportunities

The US Federal Government occasionally uses the Social Cost of Carbon to estimate economic damages associated with an increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. Damages include decreased agricultural productivity, impacts on human health, property damages from increased flood risk, etc. Based on these government estimates, the University of Maryland has reduced its carbon liability and benefited the economy by $37 Million by preventing approximately 1,034,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) from entering the atmosphere since 2005.



Planned Emissions TrajectoryThe university is striving to meet the following ambitious targets for all scopes of emissions:

  • 50% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2020 – Achieved!
  • 60% reduction in carbon emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025
  • Carbon neutrality (net-zero carbon emissions) by 2050



The University of Maryland is estimated to save $120 Million whilepreventing 4.3 Million MTCO2e from entering the atmosphere between 2016 and 2040 by implementing the following strategies. Using the Social Cost of Carbon, the additional economic benefit to the world is approximately $216 Million from this level of carbon reduction. The university’s impact will become even greater as it develops and implements additional strategies in the future to reach its goal of carbon neutrality.


The campus receives most of its power from a combined heat and power plant (CHP), which uses natural gas to produce steam and electricity simultaneously. CHP is already an efficient process but planned projects will make it and campus buildings even more efficient, thereby decreasing the carbon intensity of each facility. By 2020, all electricity coming from sources other than CHP must be produced renewably and any carbon emissions associated with powering new facilities must be offset. New technologies including algae-based carbon capture may drive carbon emissions even lower. There is plenty of opportunity for every person on campus to contribute toward reaching these goals! The UMD campus community can collectively save over 44,000 MTCO2e by 2025 through everyday behaviors like turning off computers, lights, and other equipment when not in use.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

President’s Energy Conservation Initiative: Facilities Enhancements

719,577 MTCO2e


President’s Energy Conservation Initiative: Behavior Change

126,984 MTCO2e


President’s Purchased Power Initiative

643,888 MTCO2e


President’s Carbon Neutral New Development Initiative

489,774 MTCO2e


On-Campus Renewable Energy

0 – Covered by the Purchased Power Initiative


Heat and Power Plant Improvements

450,000 MTCO2e


Carbon Capture Technology

120,000 MTCO2e


Additional Capital Investment for High Performing Energy Efficient Buildings

0 – Contributes toward other strategies



Many faculty, staff, and students are choosing alternative transportation and those who drive alone are increasingly choosing fuel-efficient cars. New federal fuel-efficiency standards are making it easier to find vehicles that save on gas and reduce carbon emissions. By 2025, these standards alone may reduce carbon emissions by 53,000 MTCO2e from just commuters’ trips to and from campus. The more people who choose carpooling, vanpooling, public transit, walking, or biking as a means of getting from one place to another, the greater those reductions will be. New housing projects located throughout College Park will increase options for living where you work/study. Those who want to eliminate their carbon footprints associated with commuting will have the option of offsetting their emissions when they register for parking permits.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Additional Student Housing On and Near Campus

23,851 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Increase Use of Vanpools for Commuting

23,680 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Increase Use of Carpooling for Commuting

4,280 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Addition of Purple Line Light-Rail Service

7,461 MTCO2e

N/A – This project will happen regardless of CAP

Develop a Plan for Effective Transportation Demand Management Programming

0 – Contributes toward other strategies


Improved Fuel Efficiency of Commuter Vehicles

223,868 MTCO2e

No cost to UMD

Install More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

1,214 MTCO2e


Offer Voluntary Carbon Offsets for Commuters

33,182 MTCO2e


Support Projects that Improve Bicycle Connectivity between UMD and Local Neighborhoods



Air Travel

Whereas the university has control over its energy infrastructure and some influence on commuting behaviors, it has little effective control of air travel emissions. Given the university’s goal of being globally connected, restricting air travel would hinder important university work. Faculty travel for research, students study abroad, athletes fly to competitions, and staff travel to conferences; all of which support university functions. To address the environmental impact of this travel, the university will implement a carbon offset program to negate 100% of the carbon emissions associated with air travel starting in 2018. A Carbon Offset Fund Committee reporting to the University Sustainability Council will select verified projects that sequester or prevent carbon emissions and determine the best process for administering the program.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Carbon Neutral Air Travel

1,400,212 MTCO2e


Solid Waste

Emissions from solid waste decreased 99% since 2005! Today, solid waste emissions account for less than 1% of the university’s carbon footprint. The university accomplished this by greatly expanding recycling and composting efforts over the past decade and sending remaining solid waste to landfills that capture and destroy methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Looking ahead, the campus can achieve carbon neutrality in this category by getting more recyclable and compostable materials in their correct receptacles and reducing the total amount of solid waste (including recyclable, compostable, and landfill waste) generated.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Recycle Appropriate Solid Waste & Compost Appropriate Organic Solid Waste

7,548 MTCO2e


Divert Solid Waste from Landfill

No additional CO2e reductions

No additional cost

Reduce Solid Waste Generation

5,471 MTCO2e


Education and Outreach to Promote Waste Reduction

0 – Contributes to achieving other strategies


Land Use and Maintenance

As Maryland’s land grant institution, the University of Maryland owns and operates research farms located from the mountains of Western Maryland to the coastal plain of the Eastern Shore. Approximately 2,000 MTCO2e is emitted each year from cows on research farms (methane emissions from digestion) and from fertilizer applied to crops and campus grounds. A bit more carbon dioxide is emitted from farm and landscape equipment, which predominantly run on gasoline and diesel. Based on a study conducted last decade, trees on the College Park campus sequester approximately 683 MTCO2e annually. The university is working on decreasing carbon emissions associated with agriculture and landscaping and plans on quantifying the carbon sequestration of university owned forests located around the State.

STRATEGY CO2e REDUCTION (cumulative 2016-2040) NET PRESENT VALUE (based on 2016-2040 costs & savings)

Carbon Neutral Grounds and Landscaping



Quantify the Carbon Sequestration of Forests on University Land and Increase the Tree Canopy on Campus

Potential offsets from UMD-owned forests



Although the university does not currently track the carbon footprint of purchasing, it certainly has the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact associated with the manufacturing, transportation, and use of the food, equipment, and other goods that it buys. By reducing consumption of goods, selecting goods that meet sustainability criteria, and working with contractors who practice a similar environmental ethic, the university’s carbon reductions in this area could be greater than those across all other areas of this Climate Action Plan. The Department of Procurement and Strategic Sourcing and Department of Dining Services are leading efforts to drive sustainability into the core of the university’s purchasing decisions.


Expand Sustainable Food Purchasing

Add Sustainability Language to Active UMD Procurement Procedures and Mechanisms

Achieve Compliance with Environmentally Preferable Procurement Policy (EPP)

Implement eProcurement System with EPP Guidance

Create Sustainable Procurement Policies and Practices for Vendor Contracts

Education and Research

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the University of Maryland set an ambitious goal to educate all students about sustainability. UMD is progressing toward that goal through its broad array of degree granting programs, living-learning programs, and initiatives such as the Sustainability Advisors and Chesapeake Project. Year by year, students are increasingly likely to receive an introductory lesson on sustainability during their first semester, grapple with sustainability concepts in various courses spanning the academic disciplines, and get involved with sustainability-focused action-learning or research activities. Sustainability and climate change research at UMD continues to be among the best in the world and groups like the Council on the Environment help those research activities flourish.


Educate First Year Undergraduate Students about Sustainability

Integrate Sustainability across the Curriculum

Offer more Sustainability Courses in General Education

Foster Active Learning Programs on Sustainability and Climate Change

Develop New Sustainability Graduate Degree and/or Certificate Programs

Assess Students’ Sustainability Literacy

Foster Research on Climate Change, Energy, and Sustainability

Support Research on Campus Sustainability through the Sustainability Fund

Deploy Research Technologies Developed on Campus


The Office of Sustainability is grateful to its many partners who helped develop this Climate Action Plan. The UMD Environmental Finance Center was instrumental in conducting carbon and financial impact calculations for all carbon reduction strategies. Thank you to the following partner organizations for helping develop and implement these strategies and for everything else they do to make the University of Maryland a national model for a Green University.

  • Facilities Management
  • Transportation Services
  • Procurement and Strategic Sourcing
  • Dining Services
  • Extension
  • Resident Life
  • Residential Facilities
  • Sustainability Council

Outreach Team

  • Students holding up pictures
  • Students with president Loh
  • Students
  • Students sitting on brick wall
  • Student with bike helmet on
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The Sustainability Outreach Team is a group of student leaders promoting a culture of sustainability at UMD.

The Outreach Team is also known as LEAF: Lead, Educate, Act, Facilitate!

Invite the Outreach Team to bring sustainability tabling, activities, and workshops to your group, team, or area.

Apply to join the outreach team!Bring sustainability outreach to your event!

What does the Outreach Team do?

  • Help students get registered and certified as a Green Terp
  • Inspire and empower students on ways to take action: reduce waste (reuse, recycle, compost), save water, eat ethically, commute smart, conserve energy, and live greener
  • Promote sustainability programs and resources to the student body
  • Identify barriers to sustainable actions and habits, and find solutions
  • Recommend sustainable choices and actions you can make and why they are important

Being part of this team allows me to exude my enthusiasm for sustainability in the hopes of sprouting enthusiasm in others in the UMD community.”– Andrea, LEAF Team Lead

What we bring to your event:

  • Energy and excitement around the topic of sustainability.
  • Tips and resources for making your event more environmentally responsible and sustainable.
  • Prizes, games, crafts and educational activities.​

The Outreach Team loves campus events! We have been to:

  • First Look Fair
  • UMD Bike Fair
  • Terp Market
  • The Farmers Market at Maryland
  • Maryland Day
  • Active Minds Carnival
  • Denton Community GreenFest
  • Stamp All Niter
  • PARK(ing) Day
  • Earth Day
  • Late Night at The Diner
  • The Commuter Breakfast
  • Stamp Fest
  • and more… !