Austin may be one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country, but UT hasn’t always lived up to the hype.
UT opened its Office of Sustainability in 2009, but the costs of going green weren’t cheap. To make an eco-friendly campus possible, UT students voted in a “green fee” two years later: a $5 fee per semester ($2.50 for summer sessions), included in student tuition, that helps generate nearly $533,000 per academic year. The money goes toward select student-proposed environmental service projects on campus, chosen by a student-majority Green Fee Committee.
Here are some of the ways the fee is transforming UT.
PCL Recycling Containers: Now the more than 5,000 students who use the Perry Castañeda Library each day can recycle paper products in handy recycling bins inside and outside the library.
Green Dining at the LBJ School: Students and faculty at the LBJ School for Public Affairs can now be seen recycling and experimenting with composting at their weekly luncheons. More than 2,000 pounds of waste have been diverted from landfills since the project began.
Solar Charging Station: Located outside the Perry Castañeda Library, the new solar charging station—the brainchild of Beth Ferguson, MFA ’09—allows students to charge everything from electronic devices to electric scooters.
Tree Nursery: In UT’s first large-scale nursery, trees are now grown for reforestation purposes. The nursery, located on the Pickle Research Campus, has a capacity of more than 300,000 seedlings and is student-run.
Bicycle Parking: Additional parking racks and bike pumps are being added across the Forty Acres.
Organic Micro-Farm: A vacant lot in East Campus is now being used as an organic micro-farm to grow the fruits and veggies served in campus dining halls.
Beautifying Waller Creek: Invasive plants are being removed from Waller Creek, which runs along the UT campus. The goal: to draw more visitors to its banks and allow student groups to monitor creek sections through an Adopt-a-Stream program.
Retrofit Drinking Fountains and Bottle Fillers: These “gooseneck” water fountains are being installed at 30 high-traffic drinking fountains on the main campus to encourage use of reusable bottles.
Top, istockphoto. Middle, courtesy Sol Design Labs. Bottom, photo by Jeff Heimsath.
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Kay Gresham Szabo: