Archive for the 'Composting' Category

Community Garden at UT Arlington — Construction begins today

Thursday, March 3, 2011                               9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Friday, March 4, 2011                                     9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Saturday, March 5, 2011                                9:00 am to 12:00 pm

406 Summit Avenue (UTA Blvd and Summit)

Volunteers needed!

Citizen volunteer Craig Powell is heading up the construction phase while many other community stakeholders will be helping with photography, sign-in and information, volunteer support, publicity, and donations.  ALL volunteers will be required to sign a participant release form.

The focus for our construction days is planting bed assembly, placement and filling of 16 ft x 4 ft. cedar plots.  Portable Drill/Drivers will be a big help in moving the construction along quickly, so if you have a drill/driver please bring it.  Since we are working with rough cedar lumber, gloves will be very important, so please bring a pair with you.

Some considerations for construction day:

ü  Protect your eyes, hands and feet. Please bring safety glasses and gloves if you have them. Wear sturdy shoes, comfortable cloths and a hat.

ü  No open-toed shoes on the garden campus through construction

ü  Power will be available from the Sweet Center. Please bring extension cords and power strips for charging portable drills.

ü  We will organize into teams for construction of the beds, numbering, cutting and placing cardboard in the beds and filling the beds.

ü  We will need an array of tools; portable drills for pilot holes and screwing corner brackets together, shovels and rakes for filling beds. The City is providing box cutters. The University is cutting the 8 foot end pieces for us so we should not have a need for extensive use of skill saws.

ü  Please make sure your tools are marked with your name to avoid confusion.

ü  Hydrate often during the day.  This is going to be a physically demanding time, so we will have plenty of water on site.

UTA is providing coffee and some refreshments, so come prepared to work hard and meet some new people that you may end up gardening with.

Thank you in advance for your contributions and the great results we will see over the next three days!

Bill Gilmore, Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation

717 W Main Street, Arlington, TX  76013-1855, 817-459-5499

North Central Texas Campus Climate Summit

On October 28th UTA hosted the North Central Texas Campus Climate Summit. The event was co-sponsored by the University of Texas at Arlington, the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program and the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability. The student groups involved with bringing this event to campus were:

Air & Waste Management Association at UTA

Environmental Society at UTA

International Business Society at UTA

Student Planning Association at UTA

UTA Volunteers

The first-ever North Central Texas Campus Climate Summit brought together over 50 participants from 15 different universities and colleges in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The summit provided opportunities for faculty, students, staff and administrators from the region to get together to share ideas, best practices and resources to accelerate climate change and sustainability solutions. The main themes explored were 1) Transforming the Curriculum to Address Eco-literacy 2) Green Workforce Development and 3) Comprehensive Greening of Campus Operations.

NCTCCS Website

Program and Agenda

Mission Statement

Presentation Files

Workshop Descriptions

Sponsors and Organizers

AASHE overview for 2008

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, of which UT Arlington is a member, has issued its annual compendium of developments in campus sustainability. The 356-page volume provides an overview of sustainability efforts on hundreds of campuses, including UT Arlington.

AASHE Digest 2008 (pdf)

Update on carbon footprint reduction planning

At the December 2008 meeting, the PSC voted to develop a carbon footprint reduction plan by the end of June 2009.  Early in the spring semester, as the first step of this process,  several of the PSC work groups (along with Environmental Health & Safety) formally responded to the 2008 carbon footprint report.

Building & Development

Energy & Water

Environmental Health & Safety

Landscaping & Habitat (6/22/09)

Transportation (6/23/09)

Waste Reduction

As I noted at the May 12 meeting, however, the planning process is behind schedule because hiring of the Sustainability Director has taken longer than expected. The work group responses will be assessed during the upcoming carbon footprint reduction planning course that begins June 3. Recommendations developed during the course will be made available to the PSC and Sustainability Director in August, with the expectation that a revised timeline for the reduction planning process can be presented at the PSC’s August 11 meeting.

Comments on the work group statements are welcome and will be taken into account during the summer analysis.

Summer course — Carbon footprint reduction planning

 Project Planning:

Campus Carbon Footprint Reduction

CIRP 5332 (course no. 51241)

Summer 2009

Wednesdays, 6:00-9:50 p.m., June 3 – August 13

Instructor: Dr. Jeff Howard, School of Urban & Public Affairs,

This graduate course will be devoted to assisting the University of Texas at Arlington with planning reductions in its “carbon footprint” – that is, reductions in its direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. During a parallel course in summer 2008, students and the instructor developed a report on the university’s carbon footprint, which now serves as the starting point for the President’s Sustainability Committee’s effort to plan effective means to reduce the footprint.

In collaboration with the instructor, students will examine preliminary recommendations included in the 2008 report, assess these in light of initial responses from the sustainability committee, and use tools such as the guide produced by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to develop further analysis and recommendations for formal presentation to the committee and the campus community.

Because climate change is increasingly prominent in public policy nationally and internationally, the course will provide students an opportunity to develop a skill set, conceptual base, and practical experience that can be applied in municipalities and institutions across the world. It also provides concrete assistance to a large university devoted to making improvements in its environmental impacts.

The course is expected to be of particular interest to students in Urban & Public Affairs, Environmental & Earth Science, Environmental Engineering, Architecture, and Business but is open to graduate students from across the campus (and conceivably to senior undergrads). Students interested in taking the course are invited to contact the instructor.


Committee begins carbon footprint reduction planning

At its December 16 meeting, the PSC voted to begin planning reductions in the university’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

A report released in 2008 described the “carbon footprint” for the baseline year of 2005, projected emissions in 2010 and 2020, proposed emission targets for “responsible growth,” and offered a series of emission reduction scenarios for several sectors (e.g., buildings, landscaping). Under the process initiated in December:

  • >>Several of the committee’s work groups will formally evaluate the 2008 report and develop recommendations on suitable emissions reduction targets. They will present summaries of their evaluations and recommendations at the PSC’s general meeting on February 10.
  • >>At the March 10 meeting of the steering committee, the soon-to-be-hired Sustainability Director will propose emissions reduction goals for each sector and for the university as a whole. The steering committee, in turn, will submit recommended goals to Pres. Spaniolo.
  • >>At the June 9 general meeting, the PSC will send Pres. Spaniolo a set of recommended amendments to bring the Sustainability Agenda into line with the emissions reduction goals.
  • >>At the June 9 meeting The PSC will request that the Sustainability Director report annually on the university’s progress toward meeting these goals and request that university-wide carbon footprint analyses be conducted in (or based on emissions in) 2010 and 2015.

Presentation and proposal, Dec. 16, 2009

Carbon footprint report (released in 2008)

Got a green idea? Want to offer constructive criticism?

If you’ve got a suggestion or constructive criticism to offer, who you gonna call?

The President’s Sustainability Committee has 10 work groups. They function rather like subcommittees, each focusing on a single aspect of the university’s sustainability program. Feel free to contact the chair of the appropriate group.

Building & Development — John Hall

Communications — Amy Schultz

Curriculum, Research, & Community Engagement — Jim Grover

Dining Services — Sharon Carey

Energy & Water — Larry Harrison

Landscaping & Habitat — David Hopman

Management Systems –

Purchasing — Megan Topham

Transportation — Jeff Johnson

Waste Reduction — Becky Valentich

Metroplex and Texas cities ranked on sustainability

The on-line sustainability information service SustainLane has released its 2008 rankings of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Arlington ranks in the bottom 10 overall as well as on its energy/climate policy, commuting (no mass transit system), street congestion, green building, communications, and local food/agriculture. Its highest rank is 3, for housing affordability.

Fort Worth ranks only a couple of notches higher overall and is in the bottom ten for commuting and street congestion. It gets high marks for housing affordability (2) and water quality (10).

Dallas fares better overall, with a midling rank of 24. It is in the bottom ten for street congestion, solid waste diversion, and local food and agriculture. Its highest mark is for innovation (12).

The state’s best-ranked city is Austin, at 13 overall. San Antonio, El Paso, and Houston rank slightly better than Fort Worth overall.



Fort Worth





Energy & climate change policy




City commuting




Metro transit ridership




Metro street congestion




Green building




Planning & land use




Solid waste diversion




Air quality




Green economy




Housing affordability




Water supply




Water quality




City innovation




Knowledge base & communications




Natural disaster risk




Local food & agriculture







SustainLane rankings

SustainLane methodology

Table showing rankings of Texas cities

National Wildlife Federation is impressed with our early sustainability efforts

Princeton Review might not see much going on here, but the National Wildlife Federation does. The organization’s Campus Ecology program has released a report entitled Campus Environment 2008: A National Report Card on Sustainability in Higher Education. UT Arlington was one of 334 institutions nationwide and 14 in Texas rated as “exemplary.” Our highest marks were on energy efficiency/conservation/renewables and on recycling/solid waste/materials.

The NWF methodology is much more transparent than Princeton Review’s, and the report provides a great overview of best practices in campus sustainability.

Baylor was also rated as exemplary.

Report (see pp. 60, 81)

Web article on the report, 8/26/08

Shorthorn story, 8/28/08

Princeton Review not impressed with our early sustainability efforts

When the Princeton Review recently published its annual ranking of colleges and universities, it for the first time included a “Green Rating.” Earlier this spring the UT Arlington President’s Sustainability Committee had submitted detailed info on our sustainability initiatives as part of the university’s response to the Review’s broad annual survey. The results, announced in late July, were disappointing: UT Arlington’s score was 60 on a scale of 60-99.

UT Austin, Rice, and UNT also scored 60, while SMU scored 69, UT Dallas scored 70, and both TCU and Baylor scored 78.

It’s frustrating that our score was the same as it would have been if the campus had not put substantial effort into, and not made substantial investment in, environmental curricula, energy efficiency, recycling, composting, and the launch of the PSC. And it’s irksome that the university got the same score it would have gotten if we had not even responded to the survey items on sustainability. The reasons for this result are somewhat mysterious, since the Review does not disclose details of its methodology for the green rating. But I see several factors.

First, the 60-99 scale of the Review’s green rating system is methodologically ridiculous. Campuses that are doing little or nothing receive a 60. But since the scale is so compressed, apparently so do some campuses that are doing quite a bit.

Second, the survey arrived only a couple of months after the PSC was formed. Some of the most significant sustainability developments at UT Arlington occurred after the survey data were submitted in March: release of the Sustainability Agenda; completion of the carbon footprint project; launch of our participation in a ride-sharing program; launch of our participation in Air North Texas; recognition that the campus consumes some electricity generated with renewable energy; first calculation of the university’s solid waste diversion rate; new purchasing guidelines for paper and equipment; and announcement that the OneBook program will focus on environment in 2009-10. We can reasonably hope that these developments, combined with others we expect this fall – hiring a sustainability coordinator, breaking ground on the campus’ first LEED building, release of a white paper on sustainability curriculum and research, and other results of the committee’s ongoing efforts to implement the Sustainability Agenda – will put us in a better position when we respond to next year’s survey.

Third, and most important, however, our sustainability program still has a long way to go. It is clear we do not meet most of the benchmarks on which the Review’s rating appears to hinge (see methodology):

  • • Have not yet hired a sustainability coordinator. This is expected to happen this fall.
  • • No environmental studies undergrad degree.
  • • No “environmental literacy” requirement.
  • • No aggressive CO2 emissions reduction commitment (80 percent reduction by 2050). Hundreds of institutions have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment; but because the UT System prohibits us from doing so, we will have to explore other means of signaling that the university is serious about climate protection.
  • • Little use of locally or organically grown food.
  • • No program to encourage students to use mass transit. Because Arlington has no mass transit system, our options here are pretty thin. We should explore ways to tap into the park-and-ride system now available on I-30 and I-20 on the city’s north and south sides. [See Letter to editor, 8/26/08]
  • • Our new program to encourage students, staff, and faculty to engage in ride sharing is fairly soft. It offers no specific financial incentives.
  • • Waste-diversion rate is not high. According to calculations by graduate students during the carbon footprint analysis, about 14 percent of our solid waste stream is recycled or composted. [edit: See correction in Comments below]
  • • No specific commitment to buying or making renewable energy. We purchase whatever the regional electricity grid provides, which at this point includes a small (but growing) percentage of renewable energy, principally from Texas’ increasingly prominent wind industry. We should explore the possibility of purchasing more.

We perhaps can get some fuzzy clues about how the Review weighs these factors by comparing our programs with TCU’s. One of the leaders of TCU’s sustainability initiative, Sociology Professor Keith Whitworth, told me he suspects his institution’s surprisingly high score of 78 can be attributed to five considerations. For two of these, there is no difference between TCU and UT Arlington:

  • • recent formation of Environmental Council (equivalent to our PSC); and
  • • all new buildings are up for LEED certification, and TCU plans to build only LEED structures in the future (same at UT Arlington).

In three others areas we clearly lag behind TCU:

  • • free bus passes; universal access transit passes; bike sharing program;
  • • waste diversion rate reported to be 70%; and
  • • signing of a formal commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

Princeton Review press release on green ratings

Survey results showing UT Arlington score of 60 on scale of 60-99

Shorthorn story, 8/28/08