Academics & Engagment


UMBC’s extensive record of incorporating climate change and environmental research into the academe has greatly influenced our climate action plan. Our key research themes comprise Environmental Sciences and Engineering, especially Atmospheric Physics, Remote Sensing and Contaminant Remediation; Life Sciences & Biotechnology, including Marine Biotechnology and Health Sciences; as well as Health EquityPolicy Studies, and Public Humanities and Art. These educational and research hubs, collaborate with various partners, to focus on issues related to climate change ranging in scale from local to global.


Specifically, the following pedagogical assets are opportunities for the CAP:


UMBC closely works with many campus partners to engage with the campus community and our neighbors. A specific example of the University’s outreach includes our relationship with dining services to expand sustainability initiatives associated with the foodservice offerings on campus.  UMBC’s dining vendor is continuously exploring local options for food procurement and novel approaches for the sustainable preparation of serving food at an institutional level. The sourcing, preparation, diversion, and disposal of food offer many opportunities for the reduction of emissions associated with the food supply chain.

Education & Research

Students working on homework

UMBC offers over 130 courses, in 34 different academic disciplines, which provide sustainability-learning opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The majority of these courses are associated with the study of the physical sciences as they related to climate change; additionally, there are several courses related to the study of politics and philosophy associated with climate change.

UMBC features a robust curriculum vitae of climate-related research. Highlights of major accomplishments include:

2019: Associate professor of chemical, biochemical, and environmental engineering Lee Blaney et al. published a landmark study on contaminants of emerging concern in the Chesapeake Bay. The research study is the first of its kind and quantifies concentrations of antibiotics, estrogenic hormones, and UV filters in multiple locations of the Bay.

2018: Professor of language, literacy, and culture, Christine Mallinson, serving as the inaugural director opened the Center for Social Science Scholarship. The Center will emphasize areas of research such as civic and political participation, global patterns of labor and migration, educational access, and the relationship between humans and the environment.

2017: Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education’s Stuart Schwartz is recognized for his project, which involved replacing about 3,700 square feet of an existing concrete parking lot at the Maryland Science Center with pervious concrete, a type of concrete that allows water to pass directly through, which reduces runoff.

2016:  Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology’s Fred Huemmrich et al., provided proof-of-concept for a new technique to measure photosynthesis in evergreens allowing scientists to more accurately quantify carbon dioxide uptake in forests.

2015: UMBC collaborated with 14 other academic institutions to become a founding member of the Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN). The mission of UWIN is to create technological, institutional, and management solutions to help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.


UMBC has primarily focused attention on reducing waste associated with dining services. Over the past decade the following dining services sustainability implemented the following programs:

  • All dining facilities on campus feature trayless service. This practice reduces the amount of energy, water, and food waste associated with meals.
  • True Grit’s customers have the option to utilize the Ozzi reusable to-go container system – which eliminates unnecessary container waste.
  • True Grit’s offers greens grown on location with their hydroponic garden
  • Leftover prepared food is donated to area shelters by the student-led Food Recovery Network

Hydroponic garden

  • Food prep scraps and food waste scraps are diverted for compost collection
  • Waste oil is collected and converted into bio-fuel or animal feedstock
  • Contractual mechanisms utilized to ensure the best sustainable practices by our dining services vendor
    • Preference for the purchase and transport of food to minimize environmental impacts, such as seasonally available local foods (within 150 miles),
    • Preference for foods grown and harvested using ecologically sound principles (e.g. sustainable seafood), and those foods certified as fair trade (i.e. good food)
    • Target that 25% of all food meets sustainable or fair trade certifications
    • Initiatives to ensure that management, kitchen and serving operations deploy resource-saving practices, such as energy-efficiency tactics
    • Adopting kitchen practices to minimize food waste
    • Incorporating sustainable design principles in construction projects undertaken on campus
    • Full participation in UMBC’s recycling program

Increase Environmental Literacy

Objective: Adopt an environmental literacy component to the undergraduate degree.

Implementation Plan:

  • Develop and propose curricula that would delve more deeply into the scientific, economic, governance, engineering, social, and ethical challenges that climate change and sustainability pose to current and future generations.

Reduction Opportunity:

  • De minimus

Required Resources:

  • An interdisciplinary team of faculty to investigate and develop an environmental literacy component to the undergraduate degree


  • 2020: Explore support for the idea vis-à-vis the faculty senate and accreditation committee
  • 2021: Solicit faculty members, across the disciplines, to establish a committee
  • 2022: Engage University stakeholders with findings and recommendations
  • 2023: Adopt an environmental literacy component.

Expand Program Offerings


Explore opportunities to develop and expand program offerings designed for undergraduate and graduate students wanting to pursue professional careers in sustainability management.

Reduction Opportunity:

De minimus

Required Resources:

An interdisciplinary team of faculty to investigate and develop an environmental literacy component to the undergraduate degree


  • 2020: Assess the success, interest, and competitiveness of the new Interdisciplinary Consortium for Applied Research in Ecology and Evolution graduate program
  • 2021: Asses the market case for the establishment of additional programs; identify potential external funding opportunities to support this effort
  • 2022: Apply and secure funding for program expansion
  • 2023: Launch new program(s)

Reduce Food Waste


Continue efforts to reduce pre-and post-consumer food waste.

Implementation Plan:

  • Quantify the amount of food waste not being diverted by donations or composting
  • Investigate the adoption of Leanpath for the University’s primary dining locations. ASU adopted Leanpath and has experienced a 39% percent reduction in food waste.


Reduction Opportunity:

  • Every ton of material diverted from the landfill is an avoidance of 0.1467 MTeCO2
  • For every ton of organic waste diverted and composted -0.05 MTeCO2 is “offset” to UMBC’s carbon emissions. The factor is an estimate for CO2 sink from increased humus formation and soil carbon restoration.

Required Resources:

  • $ per year allocated to organic waste diversion
  • Cost for Leanpath


  • 2020: Explore Leanpath feasibility
  • 2021: Implement Leanpath
  • 2022: Increase organic waste diversion at campus dining facilities by 5% compared to FY20
  • 2025: Increase organic waste diversion at campus dining facilities by 20% compared to FY20