university of washington

How University of Washington Minds Their Wake

Written by Boatsetter Team
September 11, 2023

Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

There is no denying that the aquatic ecosystem at and around University of Washington (UW)-Seattle Campus is of great value to students, faculty, Seattlites, and Boatsetter. 

The breathtaking nature surrounding the University of Washington (UW)-Seattle Campus is more than just a backdrop for your selfie—it’s a living thing Seattlites, including students, community members, and tourists, must protect. Nestled between Lake Union and Lake Washington (and an amazing view of Mt. Rainier), the surrounding natural environment shapes years-long traditions, such as sailgating on Lake Washington and sunbathing on the deck of a boat. 

An important part of our #MindYourWake initiatives is highlighting organizations, people, and stories that exemplify sustainable practices and values we keep to. In this post, we highlight UW’s Seattle Campus, which despite their growing campus and student population, keeps practicing sustainability and has helped reduce the carbon footprint of UW’s Seattle Campus. 

Post summary

  • A brief history of on UW’s sustainability efforts 
  • How is UW progressing towards their sustainability goals today?
  • How to join us in our sustainability initiative?

See what #MindYourWake is all about 


A brief history on UW’s sustainability efforts   

In 2009, the UW first implemented the Climate Action Plan as a way to show their commitment to reducing the school’s carbon footprint through both personal and community changes. In the years since, great progress has been made across different fields in reducing the school’s carbon emissions. 

All this hard and earnest work paid off: UW is now a “[three]-time gold-rated university recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.”  And they didn’t stop there; in 2020, UW implemented their Sustainability Action Plan to more closely align with the University’s contemporary goals and values. 

Check out some of the incredible sustainability goals UW seeks to reach: 

  • 15% lower energy usage intensity by 2025 
  • 10% less solid waste by 2025
  • Overall reduction in the school’s water consumption


How is UW progressing towards their sustainability goals today?

Accountability and persistence is key to moving any project along. Keep reading to learn more about all the exciting work UW is doing.  

Progress report on water reduction goal

UW water consumption

Despite the steady growth of the campus and increase in the student population, UW’s water consumption has significantly decreased. In 2021, the campus consumed 25 million less gallons of water than in 1999. For context, the freshman class of the year 2000 was just over 5,000 students. UW’s class of 2026 is proving to be the largest in school history, with 7,410 incoming freshmen. 

How did they do it, you ask? They replaced inefficient fixtures, repaired the school’s water systems (bye-bye wasteful leaks), and reduced the need for irrigation by optimizing grounds management practices. 

Besides better water consumption management, UW ensures the health of surrounding waterways by closely regulating stormwater runoff. Storm drains at UW go directly into Portage Bay and Lake Washington, both of which are known for water recreational activities and diverse ecosystems. The Stormwater Management Program implemented by UW aims to reduce the amount of contaminants that end up in these waterways by detecting and disposing of illicit discharges, controlling any runoff at construction sites where contaminants are present, and engaging in outreach initiatives that educate the public on the negative impacts of contaminated stormwater.

Progress report on energy consumption goal  

By 2025, UW hopes to lower their energy usage intensity by 15%. While they’ve been able to maintain the same energy consumption since the mid-2000s, UW still needs to put in considerable effort in reducing their energy consumption. 

To reach their goals, UW has adopted an Energy Transformation Strategy that outlines the steps needed to fully decarbonize the energy system of UW. Currently, the energy system used by the school runs on fossil fuels. 

To achieve this energy source transformation, UW is implementing a five-step strategy that focuses on energy efficiency, converting to hot water, updating central cooling, electrifying heating, and fully reducing the UW’s dependence on fossil fuels by constantly looking for greener solutions. 

Progress report on waste reduction goal 

UW has implemented various measures to ensure less trash ends up in landfills to achieve the Sustainability Plan’s goal of 10% less solid waste by 2025. A major step in achieving this is the diversion of compostable waste from the recycling and landfills and informing students of the importance of trash sorting. 

Additionally, UW is constantly reevaluating contracts and sponsorships in order to reduce waste. This process has revealed the possibility to decrease the use of single-use plastics, therefore minimizing the amount of waste that will end up in landfills.

How to join us in our sustainability initiatives? 

UW makes it easy for students and community members to get involved. As a student, you can choose from dozens of clubs, courses, and sustainability-related campus events to help UW “Mind Their Wake.” 

As a community member, you can signup for their Sustainability Newsletter to get volunteer opportunities sent directly to you. You could also regularly check out  UW’s Sustainability events page for more information on meetups. 

Boatsetter proudly sponsors clean-up efforts nationwide (Yes, in Seattle, too!) Join us at an upcoming clean-up meetup in your area. Together, we can make a significant impact on the future of our oceans and lakes.

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