Archive for the 'Dining services' Category

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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

President Spaniolo approves initial Sustainability Agenda

Kicking the Mavericks Go Green campaign into high gear, Pres. James Spaniolo has approved the university’s first Sustainability Agenda, a package of 89 actions that will involve students, faculty, and staff across the campus in protecting the environment. The agenda ensures that UT Arlington will continue to be a leader in campus sustainability in North Texas and across the state even as a more comprehensive set of goals and strategies is being developed in the coming months.

 

When the President’s Sustainability Committee was launched in October 2007, one of its initial moves was creation of a comprehensive set of work groups. In turn, one of the groups’ early objectives was development of a preliminary agenda to improve the university’s campus-wide environmental performance, consider how to extend the environmental curriculum, and deepen campus engagement in North Texas environmental affairs. The groups submitted recommendations to Pres. James Spaniolo and Vice Pres. John Hall in March 2008; and the President and Vice President issued decisions on these recommendations in April and May 2008. The Sustainability Agenda consists of 77 approved actions to be carried out in the coming months (some pending approval of funding) and 12 preliminary actions that the work groups and various campus units have already largely accomplished in recent months.

 

A small sample of approved actions:

 

  • ♦ hiring a Sustainability Director to facilitate the work of the President’s Sustainability Committee and sustainability efforts across campus;
  • ♦ exploring ways to green the university’s curriculum and research;
  • ♦ extending implementation of energy conservation measures;
  • ♦ hiring student interns to undertake a thorough ecological landscape assessment;
  • ♦ encouraging formation of an active student environmental organization;
  • ♦ supporting student involvement in programs such as the Campus Climate Challenge (http://climatechallenge.org) and Ecomagination Challenge (http://www.ecocollegechallenge.com/aboutTheChallenge.html).
  • ♦ increasing use of recycled paper for stationery, letterhead, business cards, and copy paper;
  • ♦ developing purchasing guidelines on energy efficiency of new computers, photocopiers, televisions, and other electronics;
  • ♦ working with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to develop an advertising campaign to educate the UT Arlington community on air quality issues;
  • ♦ developing an employee carpooling program; and
  • ♦ pilot testing a program for recycling goods and materials when students move out of residence halls in May each year.

Members of the university community are invited to offer feedback to assist the work groups in revising and extending the Sustainability Agenda during subsequent rounds of recommendations. Please contact the chairs of the appropriate work groups.

 

Sustainability Agenda (with list of work groups and their chairs).

Press release 

AASHE announcement

Eco-dining

The following information was provided by Meredith Moore, a marketing program specialist with Dining Services and a member of the President’s Sustainability Committee:

Dining Services would like to let everyone know about the Earth Week events going on with dining on campus.

The Connection Café has an eco-friendly menu today for lunch with offerings like Baked Alaskan Pollock, Vegetable Lasagna and Oriental Veggie Noodle Salad with Pan-Seared Tofu. The Connection is also going tray-less for the entire day to reduce waste and the use of water, energy and chemicals.

Anyone who has old cell phones, batteries or printer cartridges can bring them down to the Connection Café, as we are colleting them to be recycled.

University Club also has a couple of special menu choices including the Oriental Veggie Noodle Salad and a Garden Vegetable Pita.

Celebrate Earth Day 2008 with Dining Services!

Contact Meredith Moore

Shorthorn article on Celebrating People & Planet

The Shorthorn has an article today on the Celebrating People & Planet event yesterday. Congratulations and thanks to Becky Valentich, UT Arlington’s recycling coordinator and chair of the waste reduction work group, for her hard work in coordinating the event.

An excerpt from the story:

The university put its best green foot forward Wednesday with Celebrating People and Planet, a collection of environmental and health vendors set up at the University Center mall.

University recycling coordinator Becky Valentich organized the event and invited the vendors who attended, including the Arlington Conservation Council, the Tarrant Coalition for Environmental Awareness and the Trinity River Authority.

Several other groups were on hand promoting “green” and energy efficient businesses, ideas and products.

Full story

Mavericks GO GREEN Vendor Fair, May 15

Mavericks GO GREEN HUB Vendor Fair
Thursday, May 15, 2008
9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.
Bluebonnet Ballroom

Full info

Sponsored by the Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Program

“Trayless” dining at Connection Cafe

Dining Services is experimenting with “trayless” dining at this evening’s meal at the Connection Cafe, University Center. A number of universities are using trayless dining to cut down on the amount of food that is wasted and the quantity of dirty dishes that must be washed, resulting in lower costs for food, water, and energy. The rationale? If the customer has no tray on which to pile food, s/he takes less. Probably helps the waistline, too, no?

See poster

AASHE resources:     dining services        trayless dining

Outstanding article

Metropolismag.com has published an excellent article on the promise and paradoxes of campus greening. Although focusing on greenhouse gas emissions, it touches on many issues, including the relationship between greening of operations and greening of curriculum.

Full article

Excerpt:

In late 2005 Yale University president Richard Levin exercised the considerable prerogative of his office and announced that his institution—with its 5,500 residents, 21,000 commuters, and 1.7 million square feet of office space—would slash its greenhouse-gas emissions. His chosen target seemed attainable enough: a 43 percent reduction by 2020, which would bring the university ten percent below 1990 levels, thereby exceeding Kyoto Protocol goals. More than two years later Yale’s carbon graph is a beautiful site in an otherwise Sisyphean struggle. The university has already cut emissions 17 percent, with projects under way expected to cut another 17 percent by 2009—putting Yale a decade ahead of schedule in reaching its target. The even better news is that Yale is far from alone among universities: nearly 500 schools have signed the American College & University Presidents Cli­mate Commitment, which sets them toward climate neu­trality by a specified date (although it’s toothier than it sounds).
But Levin isn’t smug. An economist by training, if anything he’s frustrated by the wide view. “We’re showing it can be done, but our carbon savings are miniscule compared to what needs to happen,” he says on the telephone one morning. “And even if you put all the educational institutions in the world together, it still doesn’t add up to much. The answer has to come from governments, and I think the major reason for doing this is to enlighten the public so that ultimately governments will get serious about it.”
Yale and other schools are being spurred to action by a catch-22: the environmental moves they make on campus matter far less than what they teach their students—and what their students teach the world. But presidents and professors realize that the best way to teach students is through what they do on campus. Today’s campus sustainability movement is balanced be-tween nuts and bolts and big ideas. Local action has replaced global symbolism.
Higher education has emerged as a thrilling proving ground for a sustainable society. Schools of all statures and sizes—from the Ivies to red-state community colleges—are making the most of their fiefdoms, leveraging their educated and politically engaged populations, long-term outlooks, and self-managed (the often signifi­cant) physical footprints to make substantial changes. But with those changes comes a surprising reversal in academe’s typical stance: the mechanics of the campus are occupying the brightest spotlight. Students, administrators, and faculty are obsessing over the cleaning products the janitors use, how dining-hall potatoes are grown, and which dorms consume the least energy. Infrastructure is hot—hotter arguably than research or teaching about sustainability. It is as if the ivory tower has looked out to the world and seen a choking planet, and its first response is to look inward again at its own activities—building designs, power plants, and transportation systems.

[indexing: bamboo, (see comments below)]

Draft action recommendations

The PSC’s ten work groups have drafted recommendations for short-term actions to improve UT Arlington’s sustainability profile. See the recommendations here [updated 3/6/08]. A revised list of recommendations is expected to be presented to Pres. James Spaniolo by March 31. Questions and comments should be directed to the chair of the relevant work group, indicated at the head of each section.

Sustainability web page is launched

The University of Texas at Arlington is launching its new sustainability Web site today: a one-stop shop for all the latest information on sustainability projects and environmental events on campus and elsewhere, and an ongoing resource listing. Check it out at www.uta.edu/sustainability. Many people are aware of the University’s outstanding accomplishments in the areas of recycling and composting. In partnership with the city of Arlington, UT Arlington is an award-winning leader. In 2007 alone, the University was recognized by the Texas and Greater DFW Recycling Alliances and the North Texas Corporate Recycling Alliance for environmental vision and programming. Fewer people are aware of some of the University’s other “green” initiatives, however. Take energy savings, for example. Since 1973, UT Arlington has invested $12,755,044 on infrastructure improvements that have resulted in $69,198,277 in energy savings. And that’s only the beginning: the University expects to gain an additional 5 percent improvement in energy-efficiency every year for the next six years. Environmental sustainability is one of the guiding principles found in UT Arlington’s Master Plan, including the use of native plant materials, climate responsive outdoor spaces, and good stewardship of water, as well as a new approach to constructing new facilities. The campus’ new Engineering Research Building will include many sustainability elements — such as energy management systems, daylight harvesting, green roof, capturing rainwater for irrigation, and more — and will achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design “LEED” Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The President’s Sustainability Committee was launched in October 2007.