Battle Oaks

The Battle Oaks are among the oldest living trees on campus at upwards of 250-300 years old. Photo by Marsha Miller

The definition of sustainability varies depending on whom you ask and what matters most to them. “Sustainability refers to societal efforts that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability presumes that the planet’s resources are finite, and should be used conservatively, wisely, and equitably. Decisions and investments aimed to promote sustainability will simultaneously advance economic vitality, ecological integrity, and social welfare.”

As stewards of the university, many of our practices exemplify sustainability principles, although the word sustainability hasn’t always been used. Students and faculty increasingly demand more visible sustainability endeavors not just on campus, but also in the community and around the country. As a global leader, the university is setting an example of sustainability by focusing on reducing waste, actively promoting recycling, renewing valuable resources, conserving energy and water resources through its operations.

The Campus Sustainability Policy was adopted in April 2008. It requires that university policies, practices and curricula should, when possible, embody approaches that reduce life cycle costs, restore or maintain the functioning of natural systems, and enhance human well-being.

The university is one of the first Texas public higher education institutions to introduce such a rigorous plan. Thet policy reflects our commitment to sustainability and serves to guide us as we work together toward more sustainable practices and services.

A Tradition of Sustainability


UT produces all of its own energy

1930s: The university converts the Hal C. Weaver power plant from coal to natural gas. Since then, the main campus has produced all of its own electrical power and the heating and cooling for all buildings.

Dark UT Tower

1970s: The first Earth Day was celebrated in April 1970. SCOPE, the Student Committee on Pollution of the Environment, was formed and the students set up kiosks on the West Mall. A series of teach-ins were held with professors on environmental topics. A workshop on population growth, held in the union, had to turn students away because the room was overflowing.

UT bus

1980s: The University of Texas at Austin bus system is established. It will become one of the largest university transit systems in the country.

UT students working at the Concho Community Garden

2002: The Campus Environmental Center (CEC), a new student group, is established with the mission “to empower the UT community to reduce its negative environmental impact and to foster a genuine culture of sustainability on campus through collaborative and constructive means.”

UT Austin dining hall

2007: The Departments for Housing and Food Service provides all residence halls with ENERGY STAR refrigerators, freezers, and microwaves.

Green Fee Committee

2010: Students pass a referendum with 71% support establishing a ‘green fee’ that will generate just over $500,000 a year in funds for ‘environmental service’ projects on campus. Proposals will be solicited from students, faculty and staff and a student majority committee will award funds.

Chef picking up plants

2011: The Concho Community Garden is established in East Campus with funding from the Green Fee, and co-sponsorship from the Campus Environmental Center, the Division of Housing and Food Service, and the Office of Sustainability.

Orange Bike Project in front of UT tower

2012: The Orange Bike Project, a student organization formed within the Campus Environmental Center in 2009, becomes officially sponsored by Parking & Transportation Services. The OBP offers a semester rental program and education and advocacy for student bike commuters.