To get started: Form the Team

There are several ways to form your college or division (unit) carbon action team (UCAT), and the approach will vary depending on the culture of your unit. College or division leadership may designate a committee or task force. Alternatively, an informal group can form on its own, and the Sustainability Office can take responsibility for involving unit leadership. Since resources are limited, we may not be able to fully support teams formed at the subunit (school or department) level unless specifically requested by college or division leadership. 

It's a good idea to have a mix of people on your UCAT, particularly those familiar with the core mission and operational elements of the unit. Main stakeholder interests should be represented. Depending on your unit, these could be students, instructors, researchers, Extension agents, staff and/or advisory board members. If your unit needs help to form a UCAT, contact the Sustainability Office to discuss a timeline and process for team formation. Penn State also has guidance on team formation. Please keep in mind that although Penn State's Planning Guidebook is constructed around sustainability planning, our core work is climate protection and carbon emissions reduction. The process and tools for carbon planning are largely the same.

After your team forms, we'll join you for this first of several UCAT meetings. We are available to join any of the key meetings bolded below, but our attendance may not be needed at every one. As teams form, we will post more information here to help connect stakeholders with the appropriate UCAT.

Step 1: Educate

The following resources are intended to help get UCAT members up to speed and conversant about the Toolkit and relevant subject matter. After team review of these materials we will address questions and requests for additional information, and during meeting two introduce you to the assessment process. More resources will be posted below as they become available.

Toolkit and planning process:

OSU material:

Additional material:

Step 2: Assess

Before starting the planning process, it's critical to take a snapshot of where you are today.  The Sustainability Office has created assessment tools to inventory carbon and climate related activities and impacts within your unit. Your UCAT should enlist the help of others in the unit to complete your assessment survey. After you submit the survey, we will create a summary of findings and other relevant information.  We will meet with you to present the summary and recommendations for your consideration, to give you a head start on the planning process. This will typically be meeting three. After this meeting, we recommend your group convene again to run the Maturity Model, which helps a unit understand its stage of engagement around climate issues. 

To give units a head start on gathering information for the assessment surveys, the following PDFs show the survey fields. When you are ready to begin your survey, please contact us for a link.

Step 3: Prioritize

Based on the portfolio of information from your assessment survey and your unit's Maturity Model results, your UCAT will step through a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis and identify the convergence of your unit's expertise around climate and sustainability. During meeting four, we'll provide an overview of the following tools from the Penn State process we are following:

Step 4: Vision

With the knowledge gained during assessment and prioritization, your team will create a short vision statement for the carbon and climate related work of the unit. Creating a clear and inspirational vision can be one of the most powerful steps you take. A vision tells us where we want to go. A good vision keeps people focused and leads to efficiency and high levels of collaboration because everyone knows the destination. Penn State provides guidance and a worksheet for this step.

Step 5: Set Goals, Draft Plan

The goal setting stage involves two primary activities: UCAT brainstorming and completion of a plan builder survey. Both of these activities will follow general guidance, but not the same planning path, as step 5 of Penn State's Planning Guidebook. We highly encourage teams to perform the open brainstorming process first and use the more prescriptive OSU plan builder second.

The Sustainability Office will take information gathered from earlier steps, as well as the brainstorming session, and create a custom plan builder survey for you. Your UCAT will complete the survey with feedback from unit stakeholders and others. Based on these inputs, the Sustainability Office will sketch out a rough carbon plan draft for your review at meeting five. On a timeline chosen by your UCAT, a more refined draft will be presented to college or division leadership. The Sustainability Office will facilitate, as needed, input from college and division leadership into the final version(s) of the plan.

Goals should include both big wins and quick wins, or a mix of actions and strategies for your unit. They should be specific, measureable, actionable, realistic and time bound (SMART strategies).

Step 6: Implement

Now the hardest planning is over, but the real work is yet to begin! With the rough draft plan created at the end of step 5, the final work to help assure its successful adoption and implementation includes two primary elements: an Implementation Summary Table and the Support System Checklist. The Summary Table will serve as a concise single document where your goals, actions, key personnel and other details are captured. The Support System Checklist is an internal tool for your UCAT to ensure forward movement on your plan. We will also help create a checkup calendar that aligns with the strategic plan update cycle for your college or division.

Additional resources

Flying Less: Reducing Academia's Carbon Footprint

TEDx Stanley Park (University of British Columbia) - Sustainability: Are We The Monsters?

Additional background

The 2016 OSU Carbon Action Planning Guide

This guide evolved out of a collaboration between the OSU Sustainability Office and the OSU Policy Analysis Laboratory (OPAL). The document is the result of a committed group of faculty, staff and students working together to create guidance that enables OSU to engage in strategic and tactical steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net carbon neutrality by 2025.

Supporting documents that accompany the Guide.

Additional background from the 2016 plan/guide development process.