“The Verdis team has been a pleasure to work with. They were able to take a large and complex issue and turn it into a measurable, actionable plan which all parties on campus supported. The final result is a plan that our campus is truly excited about and which will allow us to make demonstrable progress in our sustainability efforts. We couldn't have done it without them.”

Kathy Johnson

Vice President for Finance and Administration
Black Hills State University

In 2017, Black Hills State University came to us wanting a sustainability master plan that would allow them to take their sustainability efforts to a new level. BHSU was already quite sophisticated in their sustainability efforts—they had a well-developed campus-wide recycling program in place, had set a carbon neutrality goal, were composting food waste from the dining hall and using it in their community garden, and had created an innovative food hub connecting local farmers with local restaurants and cafeterias.

And yet, they wanted a Sustainability Master Plan that would consolidate and analyze all of their efforts in one place and create a roadmap for further sustainability progress over the coming years. They also wanted a Sustainability Master Plan that looked at sustainability from a holistic perspective – taking into account the dimensions of wellness and diversity in addition to several other key sustainability indicators. In another ground-breaking area, they wanted us to advise them on climate resiliency.

Over a period of 11 months, we led the campus through a comprehensive planning process. Working closely with BHSU subject matter experts and staff, we took the following steps:

  • We established baselines.We gathered data to make sure we had accurate baselines on their current energy and water use, as well as waste and recycling totals, integration with the curriculum and many other metrics.


  • We established key indicators.BHSU decided to track nine key indicators: Academics, Carbon Neutrality, Diversity, Engagement, Food, Grounds, Waste, Water, and Wellbeing.


  • We set goals and a time horizon for each of those key indicators.We held a Vision & Goals Workshop with key administrators, staff and students to draw forth goals from the community. We made sure the goals were challenging yet achievable. We aligned all the goals for attainment in the year 2030.


  • We developed data-driven, realistic strategiesto meet each of those goals. Through our sustainability experience, research and collaboration with BHSU experts, we developed prioritized lists of strategies that will bring the campus to achieve their goals.


  • We wrote the Sustainability Master Plan.This 90-page document is both a visionary and practical document to guide BHSU’s sustainability efforts from now until 2030.

The final plan provides a roadmap for BHSU to achieve its goals and solidify its reputation as a sustainability leader in the region. It also includes a separate chapter on Climate Resiliency.

BHSU is delighted with the final result. Since its publication, the planning team has been sharing it with key groups on campus and it has generated quite a lot of excitement. President Tom Jackson is thrilled. And so are we!

In 2018, BHSU decided to take their efforts to the next level by engaging Verdis Group to create a Climate Resiliency Plan. We are embarking on a process to lead a campus/community task force in a process to identify climate risks, area assets and vulnerabilities, and to help them plan to build resilient systems that will allow them to flourish far into the future. We’ll have more to report on this in 2019!