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The American College and University President's Climate Commitment is a consortium of over 600 universities across the nation dedicated to addressing global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate. BHSU has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. To begin this process, we've developed a Climate Action Plan and analyze our carbon footprint annually. You can view our carbon footprint reports here: 2013201220082007.

As part of our commitment to sustainability, BHSU has enrolled in The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). STARS is a voluntary self-reporting system for colleges and universities to assess progress in meeting sustainability goals and sustainability leadership. On Earth Day 2014, BHSU received a STARS Silver rating. BHSU is the first university in the state of South Dakota to achieve a STARS rating.



  • We are asking our BHSU community to help us achieve our goals by getting involved. Take the Sustainability Pledge today.
  • Check out our Sustainability Master Plan with goals through 2030.
  • Recycling – We recycle over 50 tons of material every year!
  • Garden – Get your hands dirty in the campus educational garden, located South of the Yellow Jacket Apartments. We grow vegetables and fruit each summer.
  • Community Food Forest — We are honoring our agricultural heritage and planting fruit and nut trees in Ida Hinton Park for the campus and community to enjoy.
  • Compost at the dining hall – We compost food waste from The Hive. We send nearly 700 lbs. of leftover food waste weekly to the Rapid City Materials Recovery Facility, where it is transformed into rich compost for gardens.
  • LED lighting, dark sky compliant – Our outdoor lighting is LED and Dark Sky Friendly, reducing electricity use and light pollution.
  • Solar Energy: There are approximately 2,500+ solar panels installed on Bordeaux Hall, Thomas Hall, Life Science, Library, Facilities Services, & Donald Young Center Rooftops. They produce just over 1MW replacing 15% of the electrical load and saving $103,000 per year. 
  • Tree Campus USA – BHSU was named a Tree Campus USA on Arbor Day every year from 2016 until 2020! We have planted 200 trees a year. Click the link to find information about each tree on our campus tree map.
  • Bee Campus USA - On , BHSU has become a bee-certified campus where they create sustainable habitats for pollinators.
  • Wind turbine – BHSU’s iconic wind turbine at the Student Union is our first foray into renewable energy. It produces about 2,200 kilowatt-hours per year and feeds directly into the Student Union.
  • LEED – The David B. Miller Student Union is a certified LEED Gold building. It features a green roof, locally sourced and recycled materials, and a water-efficient design. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Life Science Lab and BHSU-Rapid City campus are both certified LEED Silver. Bordeaux Residence Hall is our first green residence hall! It is currently under certification review and was built to LEED Silver specifications.
  • Spearfish Local – Look for BHSU’s Spearfish Local logo at restaurants around town to find locally grown food!
  • Green Certified restaurants – The Hive and Buzz Shack are certified Green Restaurants, meeting a rigorous measure from the Green Restaurant Association for nutritious food choices, efficient energy and water use, reducing waste, green cleaning, and purchasing eco-friendly products.
  • STARS Silver – BHSU is rated STARS Silver by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) is a nationally recognized reporting tool.
  • Carbon Commitment – BHSU has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050. The Carbon commitment is focused on reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible.
  • Campus Green – Our new landscaping provides a place for people to gather and an ADA-accessible bike/walk path connecting access from campus to town. The new hillside landscaping was given a Lakota name, Oyate Wicaka Wita, meaning people/nation gathering place.
  • Bioswales – To reduce erosion and direct stormwater, bioswales are located next to the Student Union, West Complex Residence Halls, and Faculty parking lot.
  • Weekly bike rides – Jump into nature and get to know the area better on weekly bike rides offered by the Bicycle Club.
  • Bike Spearfish! – Across the community, we are working to enhance bicycle commuter safety and accessibility through improved education, evaluation, enforcement, engineering, and encouragement.
  • Electric Vehicle - BHSU is the proud owner of a 2019 Chevy Bolt electric car! The purpose of the electric vehicle is for faculty and staff to use when they travel between our Rapid City Campus and our Spearfish Campus. It is 60% more efficient for us to run an electric car over gas cars. The Chevy Bolt can go 224 miles per charge. BHSU has two level-2 charging stations; one near the Life Science building and the other one is located at the BHRC campus in Rapid City. They are both free to use. 
Sustainability at BHSU Transcript
Baylee Lacompte
Black Hills, the HeSapa are the heart, a very thing that is to Lakota people. All of creation is related to the blood of young rock. We belong to the earth, and we're caretakers of the Black Hills and the earth.
Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr.
There are many things very important to Black Hills State University, probably something in its soul, the sustainability and the importance of protecting the environment. Those things are so critical to this university and there's a very deep belief system in those elements. Not only within our student body, but also within our faculty.
Petrika Peters
Because of the unique area that we live in there's a natural fit for this university to want to grow in a sustainable way. We have applied and been granted Tree Campus USA that will be officially awarded to us on Arbor Day. Its a really exciting initiative that we have here on campus. Were in the process of ng many of our lights on campus with LED lighting so that helps us to reduce our overall energy use. I think one of the things that is unique to sustainability at Black Hills State University is the outreach that we do in the community. But we do a lot of education about local food and the importance of that and our dining works to bring local food into its services as well.
Nick Pappas
We can succeed in our sustainability initiatives on campus then we can set an example for the rest of the community.
Chris McCart
Our students become Leave No Trace trainers so we teach them what are the research based principles about the actions they should do and teach in the backcountry so that resources will be there for future generations.
Hannah Bohlinger
You're living in a community where there's such a prominent outdoors community. Its important to take care of the area that were in, and just being aware of your impact, and doing your best to minimize it is the best thing you could possible do to make sure that its always going to be there.
Chris McCart
We are very blessed to be in this place.

STARS ratings are based on three main categories: Education and Research; Operation such as buildings, climate, dining services energy, grounds purchasing, transportation, waste, and water; and Planning, Administration, and Engagement. Our hope is to engage the entire campus community in this effort and lead the way to a sustainable future.

At BHSU, all new buildings and major renovations are built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver or higher standards. David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union was the first state building to earn this standard, earning LEED Gold after its 2009 renovation. The Student Union is used as a model for the demonstration of energy efficiency and an educational tool for BHSU students and others in the community. Some of these components include a green roof, wind turbine, compost collection of food waste at The Hive, and energy efficiency. Since then, The Black Hills State University Rapid City campus and the Life Science Lab at our main campus have both achieved LEED Silver. The new Crow Peak Residence Hall was built to LEED specifications and is currently pending certification.


Our campus dining hall, The Hive, and coffee shop, The Buzz Shack, both achieved Green Restaurant Certification in 2014. Produce from our campus garden is used for meals in The Hive in late summer and early fall.


In an effort to engage the campus and greater community on the issues surrounding local food, BHSU launched Spearfish Local in the spring of 2014. Since then, 23 businesses have registered for the Spearfish Local badge by proving that they sell or cook with local produce. To engage students in the process, we created 15 paid student internship positions involving all aspects of the local food economy with external grant funds. 

The work of Spearfish Local led to the creation of the Black Hills Food Hub, a local food distribution company bridging the gap between local producers and area cafeterias. BHSU is incubating the Black Hills Food Hub business with Cobblestone Science as the contracting agency running the program. The Black Hills Food Hub is delivering produce from area farms to Regional Hospital in Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in Summer 2016!


Contact: Debbie Liddick

Black Hills State University is proud to have recently achieved the designation of Tree Campus USA® through the Arbor Day Foundation.

“Our recognition as a Tree Campus USA shows that we are joining national and regional partners as we continue to take an active role in the care of our campus tree environment,” said Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr. “Sustainability is part of the soul of this University. There is a very deep belief system in our students, faculty, and staff at Black Hills State University to protect the environment.”


Learn more about this exciting designation, read the campus tree-care plan, and view the BHSU campus tree map here.

BHSU Sustainability in the News:



The environment matters to BHSU and we demonstrate this in our sustainability efforts as a green campus. As a university, we believe in decreasing our carbon footprint, we believe in recycling, and we believe in inspiring others to do the same. That’s who we are at BHSU.