On a typical Friday, students rush down Speedway past Gregory Plaza on their way to class, passing the ever-present bake sales, barbecues, and fairs for student organizations. But last Friday, there was no way to miss the Sustainability Fair for America Recycles Day—mainly because of the giant Longhorn symbol out made of more than 3,900 cardboard boxes.
The 7-foot-tall fort spanned the entire plaza in front of Gregory Gym and was built by students in order to break the largest university box fort record set by Duke University in September, and raise awareness for UT’s recycling efforts. The event was sponsored by the Campus Environmental Center and the Office of Sustainability.
After following other schools’ box fort efforts the past for three years, Office of Sustainability program coordinator Karen Blaney said she had a feeling UT could beat the record.
“I thought, ‘If we could get one box from every student who moves in, we would have 7,000 boxes, we could do this,’” Blaney says. “I gave the idea to the students and they just kind of ran with it.”
The group ended up collecting about 4,000 boxes from around campus and local grocery stores and the group of student leaders opened a design contest to decide what the fort would look like. There are currently no rules regarding the look of the university box forts, just the number of boxes, according to Blaney.
UT senior Daniel Perenyi, who also works in the Office of Sustainability, says the Longhorn idea came from Architecture senior Clifton Harness.
“People were so pumped about it,” Perenyi says. “People coming by kept saying ‘This is the best fort ever!”
The group thought it would take eight hours to get the structure fully completed, but thanks to the nearly 400 student volunteers, the fort went up in two and half hours. There were a few hiccups, though, Blaney says. At one point a gust of wind toppled part of the structure, which students quickly rebuilt.
Both Perenyi and Blaney say they hope fort-building becomes a regular event on campus, and Perenyi says there is one major lesson he learned building UT’s first box fort.
“I would definitely say to use twice as much duct tape and half as much packing tape,” he says.
As for what you do after building a giant box fort? Students will take it apart and, naturally, recycle its contents. Blaney says members of the University Union Events and Entertainment group are in charge of disassembling the Longhorn, and even hid prizes in some of the boxes to help motivate students to help take it down.
The finished box fort as seen from the McCombs School of Business; Daniel Perenyi and his fellow student leaders place the last box into the fort.
Photos by Kim Brown/McCombs School of Business (top) and UT Office of Sustainability (bottom).