Sustainability at UNH began in the 1970's with grassroots leadership of faculty, students, and staff beginning to teach and research environmental issues and to conserve energy across campus. This grassroots momentum led to the establishment of our office - the oldest endowed, university-wide sustainability program in US higher education -- in 1997 through a generous gift by a visionary UNH alumnus. In 1998, the Office of Sustainability Programs (OSP) was born.

A program review of the office in 2002 and an advisory committee in 2006, along with the growing scope and impact of the office on academic and operational activities campus-wide, lead to UNH President Mark W. Huddleston elevating of the Office of Sustainability Programs reporting line to the Office of the Provost and to naming founding director Dr. Tom Kelly as UNH Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in 2007. This elevation strengthened our cross-campus mission to collaborate with others in increasing the university’s national leadership in sustainability, and we took on the name University Office of Sustainability (UOS). We also began reporting directly to the UNH Provost.

The concept of the UNH Sustainability Academy (UNHSA) was the focus of planning since 2008, including a series of workshops with hundreds of faculty and staff across campus, as well as the focus of a sustainability working group of the UNH in 2020 strategic planning process. Our cross-campus Collaborative Council was established and convened in May 2010, and in September 2010 the former University Office of Sustainability (UOS) transitioned into the UNH Sustainability Academy. The formation of the UNH Sustainability Academy was a reflection of the University's commitment to bringing even more resources, interdisciplinary knowledge, and diverse voices to bear on sustainability efforts across campus. This transformation was the culmination of more than a decade's efforts that have resulted in UNH being consistently ranked among the most innovative and effective higher education institutions advancing sustainability in the country.

To better communicate who we are and what we do, and to integrate more fully with strategic initiatives ongoing at UNH, in 2012 we changed our name to the Sustainability Institute at UNH (UNHSI).