Fifty years ago, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, welcomed its first students to a compact, contemporary campus set on 500 acres of
farmland. From the beginning, we emphasized the importance of being good stewards of the environment. Our students,
faculty, and staff have collaborated for years
on greening initiatives and groundbreaking
sustainability research, led by teams at the
Conservation and Environmental Research
Areas, the U.S. Geological Survey Water
Science Center, and the Center for Urban
Environmental Research and Education.
Today, 16,000 people live and work on campus, and we recognize that our actions, or
inactions, are tied directly to the health of
the Chesapeake Bay.
In 2007, I joined more than 330 college presidents and signed the American College and
University Presidents Climate Commitment.
At the time, a number of students viewed
this as simply a public relations move and
challenged University administrators to
commit to substantive changes. Signing the
document reinforced my concern about the
local impact of global warming. In the intervening years, a task force—comprised of
dedicated students, faculty, and staff—has
taken a hard look at our campus’ impact on
the region’s environment and developed a
more comprehensive sustainability plan.
The strategies and initiatives adopted by this
group have resulted in an almost 16 percent
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since
2007, even as our campus community has
grown substantially. We now get 20 percent
of our energy from renewable wind and
solar. The UMBC campus serves as a living
laboratory of sustainable practices by integrating faculty research, student culture, and
campus activities. From building stormwater
ponds, a rainwater harvesting system, and
paths with pervious pavers to implementing
recycling and composting programs, we are
actively working to protect our treasured Bay.
If you visit our campus, you are sure to
get a tour of the vegetated roof on our
administration building. The project, which
was completed in 2015, is our third green
roof. This one happens to sit directly above
my office and I cannot contain my excite-
ment about it. Funded by a $1 million gift
from the France-Merrick Foundation and
$375,000 of campus capital funds, the roof
has wide-ranging environmental benefits.
The vegetation absorbs rainwater, preventing
runoff that would cause erosion and contrib-
ute to sedimentation in waterways. The new
roof also better insulates the building, help-
ing us conserve energy, a key strategy in our
climate action plan. The space also can be
used as a laboratory and gives students the
opportunity to gain real exposure to address
climate change issues.
With a portion of the gift from France-Merrick, we’re also able to support a team
of 15 student “eco-ambassadors,” who give
educational presentations and create projects that raise campus awareness about
sustainable choices for waste, energy, and
transportation. This year, the ambassadors
have been instrumental in promoting the
RecycleMania competition and have developed sustainability awareness orientations
and tours for visitors.
I was moved by what one student ambassador,
Elias Weston Farber, recently told me: “We
are working to take on the daunting challenge
that climate change and environmental injustice pose to humanity through increasing
awareness, investing in research, and transitioning to more sustainable infrastructure.”
To protect our environmental health while
educating future leaders is truly something
to be treasured.
Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski,
President of the University of
Maryland, Baltimore County,
is a prominent educator,
advocate, and mathematician.
The project, which was
completed in 2015, is
our third green roof.
This one happens to sit
directly above my office
and I cannot contain
my excitement about it.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County President
Hrabowski tours the green roof on top of the
university’s administration building.
Stewardship in Practice
By Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski