EN Thompson Forum Sustainability Idea Award


The Forum Sustainability Idea award will recognize Recognized Student Organizations (RSO) that plan, develop, and/or execute a sustainability idea that aligns with selected themes from University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s (UNL) Sustainability and Resilience master plan. The themes described below are chosen specifically to attract interest and submissions from the broader UNL RSO community. The integration of themes from the master plan is intended to promote engagement around UNL’s existing sustainability roadmap and provide a guideline to facilitate the development of new ideas. The fourth theme deals with a pressing issue at the forefront of many people’s lives: sustainably adapting to COVID-19. The goal of this project is to allow students’ ideas to improve sustainability at UNL with the potential to make measurable impacts in the university.

Themes  for Submissions

Theme I: Transportation

  1. How should UNL increase commuting to campus via alternative forms of transportation?

  2. How can ridership on public transportation be increased?

Theme II: Energy

  1. How can students help UNL minimize energy consumption and associated Greenhouse gas emissions? 

  2. What energy conservation ideas do you have for UNL to implement, especially in residence halls?

Theme III: Waste Management

  1. How can UNL achieve Zero Waste by 2030?

  2. Can you think of better ways to reduce the amount of waste during students' move-in and move-out period?

  3. What can RSO do to improve better recycling and waste management practices during their events?


Theme IV: Sustainability and COVID-19


Necessary adaptations to the lives of everyone in the UNL community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have presented serious difficulties in promoting sustainable lifestyles. Examples of this include increased use of single-use plastics, the popularity of disposable face coverings, and reduced energy efficiencies in buildings. 

Goal: To increase sustainable practices at UNL in the face of COVID-19. 


Submission Expectations

Submissions must be made by RSO and take the form of written plans submitted via a digital document. The plans must positively encourage sustainability in the UNL community and participants are encouraged to show depth in plan development. RSO advisors are required to sign-off on proposals prior to submission, and there is no limit to the number of submissions per RSO. Additionally, submissions must conform with the criteria items outlined below. These will be used as a basis for selecting the award recipient.

Alignment with the Selected Goal

Submissions should contribute directly to the goal associated with the selected pillars of sustainability. Submissions are not required or expected to completely solve any of the provided goals, but they should provide practical ideas on how to make progress towards achieving those goals.


Ideas should be pragmatic and realistically implemented. They should be able to be implemented without exceeding a reasonable amount of university financial support, particularly given the budget cuts currently being experienced.


Proposals must have demonstrated actual or potential real impacts on promoting sustainability at UNL. A strong emphasis will be placed on plans that can have measurable results.


Ideas are expected to be well-developed and include some demonstration of feasibility, whether it is collaborating on a plan with members of the UNL community or actually implementing the plan. Execution of ideas will be highly encouraged, but not required, especially for larger-scoped projects. Submissions that are intended to exist beyond the length of the competition should make an effort to show how the progress will continue.


The proposal should be able to serve as a model for similar implementations at other colleges, universities, and institutions. The degree of replicability may vary based on how much the circumstances of other institutions align with those of UNL, so the portability of the idea does not necessarily need to be universal.

Creativity and Innovation

The proposal should be unique as a whole or parts of its implementation. A proposal gets a high score depending on how its components are disruptive, out-of-the box, practical, and ethical. Examples of the components include: product/service, delivery systems, marketing, etc.

Note: A detailed rubric for the submitted projects can be found here. 

Important Dates

The competition is open until March 1, 2021. The evaluation process will take place from March 02, 2021 to March 24, 2021. The top 3 projects per each theme will be announced on March 26, 2021, and the winners will be announced and recognized on the day of the "No Horizon is So Far" event with Ann Bancroft on March 31st, 2021. 

Submission Formats

Participants must submit two items. The first item is the online form that contains participants’ information and a short abstract of the proposed idea. Second is a pdf, narrated powerpoint presentation or prezi, or a video no longer than 10 minutes and under 100 mb that provides more details about participants’ proposed idea. The naming convention of the files is 


  1. [ENTF].[Name of the Idea].[Theme].[Name of the RSO].[Summary] for participants’ information file. 


  1. [ENTF].[Name of the Idea].[Theme].[Name of the RSO].[Idea] for detailed file 


And participants can use this link to submit projects. 


Award and Prizes

The winning RSO’s will be recognized at the E.N. Thompson Forum Student Panel event. The award and its benefits will be gifted to the RSO and not to individual students. There will be four RSOs to be awarded under the four categories -- Energy, Waste Management, Transportation, and Sustainability & COVID-19. The winning RSO under each theme will receive $500 to be added to the RSO’s budget. 


Application Support

The UNL Office of Sustainability is willing to provide additional support to the participating RSO. They have experts in the listed categories for the competition, and participants are encouraged to reach out to them as they prepare their submissions. Reach out to the office through email, sustainability@unl.edu, or visit www.sustainability.unl.edu for more resources.