How Green is Texas? Part 3: The Terrific Texas Universities

By John Rose, April 18, 2016, Energy Efficiency, Green

When Texans observed the first Earth Day in April 1970, the state was America’s petrochemical capital. Oil and gas production gushed, and chemical plants belched smoke into the sky. Forty-six years later, Texas businesses and institutions are still energy leaders, but instead, they’re building energy efficient renewable energy technologies for the 21st Century. In our “How Green is Texas?” series, we’re going to highlight the companies, school districts, universities, and home builders moving Texas towards a greener state of being.

I have to start this article by first noting that my research for energy-efficient universities in Texas was a little disappointing. For one of the largest states in the United States, in both size and population, we are a little behind the pack in terms of collegiate energy efficiency efforts. In fact, none of our institutions of higher learning can be located on any of the Top 10 “Green Colleges” lists available online.

How Green is Texas? Part 3: Terrific Texas Universities

It’s time to get educated on the greenest universities in Texas!

Because of this, we have all the more reason to highlight those schools who are bucking the trend and trying to make a real difference in their energy consumption.

1) The University of Texas at Austin 

How Green is Texas? Part 3: Terrific Texas Universities

The University of Texas can maintain these green spaces with its focus on environmental sustainability.

Two of the many iterations of the UT system top this list. It is encouraging to see such a large collegiate system so on board for helping not only improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of campus activities, but also to support a significant amount of research into improving current technologies.

The main campus at Austin has an Office of Sustainability with a motto I’m rather fond of: “Bleed Orange. Think Green.” They adopted a Campus Sustainability Policy in 2008, with the goal that all university practices (including curricula and policy making) should reduce energy consumption. This mission really is seen campus-wide, and I have just cherry-picked a few to list here.

  • After two years of preparation, UT students competed in the 2015 Solar Decathalon – and won the energy balance contest.
  • There are many sustainability and green energy focused research projects based on campus, including a recent discovery by the Cockrell School of Engineering which may lead to new, exceptionally energy-efficient windows.
  • The Center for Sustainable Development, which is based in the School of Architecture, uses a combination of research, education, and outreach to further its mission to create sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the construction industry today.

2) The University of Texas at Arlington 

How Green is Texas? Part 3: Terrific Texas Universities

The University of Texas at Arlington has taken sustainability education to heart!

 

UTA’s Institute for Sustainability and Global Impact (ISGI) aims to increase the campus’ ability to address sustainability challenges over time. The ISGI has more ongoing initiatives than I can address in one post, but I was impressed by the diversity of what they covered, from food waste education to energy efficiency enhancements. Overall, their investments in energy conservation currently save over two million dollars annually, and that number is set to keep rising as their efforts continue.

3) Texas A&M University 

How Green is Texas? Part 3: Terrific Texas Universities

By thinking green, Texas universities can save money, educate their students, and ensure a sustainable future for all!

Since 2002, Texas A&M has improved their annual energy efficiency by 43% per square foot. This has resulted in a $200 million dollar cost avoidance. The school has experienced a massive 20% reduction in water consumption since 2002, which is impressive considering that the campus continues to grow.

The 2020 Energy Action Plan aims to improve this further, with an overall goal of reducing all energy used by the campus by a further 13.5% by the year 2020. They consider energy used by not only their buildings, but also by the vehicles brought onto campus by both staff and students. Significant investments are being made to enhance the campus to be more bike-friendly, and the school has developed initiatives encouraging carpooling for those who drive to work.

4) Texas Tech University 

How Green is Texas? Part 3: Terrific Texas Universities

Texas Tech University has taken the “Three R’s” to heart with its green living goals.

 

Texas Tech University has an annual Energy Savings Program, which offers relative transparency on its energy usage on a yearly basis. Since 2000, the school has reduced its annual energy use by 25%, and the total amount of annual recycled materials has risen by almost 500% in just the last 7 years. Their cafeterias switched from water-cooled ice machines to air-cooled machines, and this simple move saved 600,000 gallons of water a year! That truly shows how a small change can make a huge difference.

In the next installment of the “How Green is Texas?” series, we’ll research home builders.

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