A group of students plant a sapling by the lawn adjacent to the WEB Du Bois Library

Earthly Investment: Sustainability at UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst continues its mission to be a leader in sustainability for the community, state, and nation.
A student plants a seedling under a solar panel canopy

From its intentional campus planning to ethically-sourced dining options, UMass Amherst has grown and continues to be a leader in sustainability for the community, commonwealth, and nation. On campus and beyond, the university offers incredible opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to learn about and practice sustainable living in a collaborative environment. 

At its core, imparting knowledge of sustainability is vital to achieving UMass Amherst's mission to produce citizens who serve as leaders in their fields and to create a just, healthy, and sustainable world. Learn more about the university's sustainability history, as well as the many ways "going green" is built into campus life and culture at UMass Amherst.

Recent History

Geothermal test wells are drilled on the UMass Amherst campus.

UMass Amherst takes an important step toward carbon zero with the completion of exploratory geothermal test well installation. By implementing geothermal technology, UMass Amherst can eliminate around 65 to 70 percent of its greenhouse gas footprint.

Sunset over campus

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy launches UMass Carbon Zero—a major, campus-wide initiative aimed at achieving 100 percent reliance on renewable energy sources for heating, cooling, and electricity across campus by the year 2023.

UMass Amherst Old Chapel

UMass Amherst wins the 2021 Leading by Example Award from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for collaboration with UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and Salem State University as they work to decarbonize each campus.

An architecture studio in the John W. Olver Design Building at UMass Amherst.

The John W. Olver Design Building wins the American Institute of Architecture’s (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) highest honor, the Top Ten Award.

Solar canopies create shade over a large parking lot.

UMass Amherst completes the largest campus solar project in New England, including 15,000+ solar panels on five buildings and two parking lots.

Students at a protest advocating divestment from fossil fuels.

UMass becomes the first major public university to divest from direct fossil fuel holdings, as well as establishes the School of Earth and Sustainability.

Food is served at a UMass dining hall.

UMass Amherst becomes the largest food-service provider in the nation to sign on to the Real Food Campus Commitment, which requires food budgets to move away from industrial farms and towards local, fair, and ecologically sound sources.

The Franklin Permaculture Garden at UMass Amherst.

The Franklin Permaculture garden, a thesis project led by student Ryan Harb ’08, wins the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge and is honored at the White House.

Crotty Hall on the UMass Amherst campus.

UMass Amherst's Environmental Performance Advisory Committee publishes the university’s first Climate Action Plan.

A student participates in the Mass Impact Day of Service through UMass Amherst Student Engagement and Leadership

Climate Change

campus shot

With support from the UMass community, our carbon-zero project will transition the campus to 100 percent renewable energy as we build a new infrastructure that will sustain a net-zero carbon emissions campus energy system for generations to come.

Trees with yellowy orange foliage are seen by McGuirk Stadium

The Carbon Literacy Project is a training program that helps the community gain an understanding of the basic science behind the climate crisis, the impact different sectors have on our climate, environmental justice issues, climate calculator/mitigation tools, high impact solutions, and ways to take action.

Researchers in boat.

UMass Amherst NECASC is part of a federal network of eight climate science centers created to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques relating to climate change.


North Chiller Plant

A comprehensive energy plan that maps out the future of energy usage for the UMass Amherst campus.

Solar panels found on top of the Champions Center

UMass Amherst is home to a number of solar panels throughout campus that work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the regional grid and cut the university's electric bills.

Wind Energy Turbines

The first modern US wind turbine was designed and constructed in the 1970s at UMass Amherst. Today, the center works diligently to maintain and enhance wind energy education programs and research activities.

ELEVATE faculty meet with community members in Holyoke, Mass.

For decades, UMass faculty in a variety of academic disciplines have done cutting-edge work on renewable energy and issues of equity. In 2021, the Energy Transition Institute was formally established to bring these experts together to maximize their research impact.


Students participate in the Worcester Commons Permaculture Garden

UMass Dining continues to keep sustainability at the forefront of its business practices — learn more about about Dining's new carbon footprint rating system, its investment in regenerative ocean farming, the UMass Dining Permaculture Initiative, and more.


A group of students purchase used items during the New2U indoor tag sale

The New2U Move-out Collection and Move-In Tag Sale is a waste reduction program that was created, organized, and run by students and staff and supported by Facilities and Campus Services and many other partners across the campus. Since the program's inception, New2U has been able to divert over 80,000 pounds of items from being sent to a landfill. 

Student farm workers stand in front of a green tractor outside in the farm fields

The UMass Student Farm commits to providing the campus community with nutritious, organically grown, local produce. The farm cultivates student empowerment through hands-on agricultural production and by educating peers about the importance of creating a healthier food system.

Franklin permaculture garden

The UMass Permaculture Initiative is changing the way students interact with their food and surroundings with the creation of on-campus permaculture gardens. As part of the Healthy and Sustainable Food System Initiative, UMass Permaculture serves as a hands-on, experiential teaching tool for students to learn about local, healthy food systems. 

Buildings and Transportation

Aerial view of Commonwealth Honors College with WEB Du Bois Library in the distance

UMass Amherst has a variety of green buildings on campus, including those certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Sam the Minuteman kneels in front of the plantings in the shape of UM on the Haigis Mall

Residence Life works to help students understand the collective and individual impact of their actions. Learn how students are encouraged to reduce waste, conserve energy, and more.

Sam the Minuteman rides a ValleyBike pedal-assist bike outside of Herter Hall

ValleyBike Share is designed to promote short bike trips within core communities, where large clusters of people can be connected. Five stations are conveniently located on the UMass Amherst campus.  The bike-sharing program, which contains 540 pedal electric-assisted bikes in its system, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. 

A PVTA bus drives on University Drive on campus

In 2021, UMass Amherst received its first all-electric bus from the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority. In the coming years, UMass Transit intends to replace more of its diesel-running vehicles with electric buses, which, in ideal conditions, can travel 230 miles on a single charge.

Continue the Conversation

Dig deeper and explore the many ways UMass Amherst continues to be a leader in sustainability.