The UAF Office of Sustainability is a student-funded, student-driven effort to make UAF a model for the Circumpolar North and beyond by incorporating sustainability into curriculum, operations, campus life and the greater community. Our vision is to see UAF inspire Alaska’s diverse communities with leadership in environmental stewardship, energy and resource management, social justice and fiscal responsibility, allowing us to thrive now and be resilient in the face of a changing future.
We engage with UAF students and the community in a multitude of ways - providing services, project support, leadership opportunities, basic needs support, student employment, outdoor activities, community connections, and skill development. We collaborate across campus to integrate sustainability into departments and programs, and to develop sustainability-focused student opportunities.
Our student-run programs and services cover a broad range of areas and are housed in the Center for Student Engagement. The majority of them (including the Office of Sustainability itself) began as student ideas. These are UAF Recycling, Green Bikes, the UAF FreeStore, the Upcycle Annex, the Wood Center Food Pantry, Nanook Grown and the Office of Sustainability.
Sustainability at UAF was started by students that wanted to see UAF become a more sustainable institution. After a campaign to put a new sustainability fee on the ballot, the ASUAF student body approved a $20 fee per semester fee for all UAF students in 2009. The Chancellor at the time, Brian Rogers, was so impressed that he volunteered to match the funds. In 2010 a Director of Sustainability was hired, followed shortly by a full-time administrative assistant and student employees. A student board was established to advise the Director and ensure that the fee was being used for projects and programs the students selected.
Over the next 7 years a recycling pickup program, bike shop, and summer produce stand were established, all operated by students. The bulk of the funds were used to complete projects, often written by students. From 2010-2017 the student board selected 90 of them for funding. Examples include the computer shutdown program and solar panels on the SRC. Some - like water bottle filling stations - were incorporated into UAF’s Design standards. Others, like the Sustainability Art Show and Earth Day Celebration, have become annual events.
In FY16 the budget climate shifted and the match was repealed. Just before this happened, sustainability students worked with the UA administration to use all of their remaining funds to establish a Green Revolving Fund for student-selected sustainability projects.
The program adapted rapidly and continued to grow. Over the next two years the two full time staff were reduced to one part time staff and the program shifted its primary focus to student services and education. Recycling, Green Bikes, and Nanook Grown continued to grow. Two additional programs were developed - The FreeStore and the Upcycle Annex. A third, the Wood Center Food Pantry, became part of the Office of Sustainability. In 2018 the ASUAF student body voted to make the fee and sustainability funding and programs permanent. As of 2020 the program is funded with a portion of the Fairbanks Consolidated Fee.
Today the program employs one non-student staff member and approximately 9-12 students to run a diverse array of programs that are utilized by hundreds of students, employees, and Fairbanks community members.