Campus Reinforces Support of Zero Waste Goal

Resource Recovery team

Lindsey Hutchison, McKenzie Beverage and Bobby Moddrell at a recent Waste Audit

The campus has shown growing support for zero waste this spring semester, from a presentation by Resource Recovery to Staff Council to supportive legislation passed by the Graduate Student Assembly and other matters.

Staff Council invited Resource Recovery Manager Bobby Moddrell and Zero Waste Senior Coordinator McKenzie Beverage to share an overview of zero waste efforts at the February 21, 2019 meeting. Resource Recovery also introduced the components of the Zero Waste Workplace program, which has now reached seven buildings. Moddrell and Beverage explained that the program was created to provide tailored support to each campus educational building in order to update waste collection infrastructure and provide associated education. If you missed this meeting, the video recording can be viewed online, starting at minute 19:51.

This semester, the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) prepared zero waste legislation that was passed on April 10, 2019. GSA Representative Stefan Henneking, GSA President Samantha Fuchs, and Student Government Sustainability Policy Director Savannah Troy were instrumental in its creation. Henneking was inspired by the new composting program at the Student Services Building implemented as part of the Zero Waste Workplace program. He wanted to help encourage the composting program by calling for university-wide policy change and increasing general knowledge about zero waste at the administrative and student level. In an email interview, Fuchs explained the motivation behind drafting the legislation and the vision of its impact.

“The legislation was written because the University of Texas produces a significant amount of waste per year. In some ways, our policies align with our goals in the Sustainability Master Plan, but in other ways we are falling behind our goals… [GSA] seeks to reduce waste on campus through education on composting, recycling, Resource Recovery programs, and the conversion to BPI certified compostable-only products for food packaging… [so that] all materials that come over the counter of a restaurant, including utensils and packaging, are compostable…in an easy way for students and staff to follow. Zero waste is important to graduate students because it’s important to everyone. Landfill waste is expensive and environmentally destructive. Recycling and composting are essential for managing our resources here at the university, and everywhere else.” (S. Fuchs, email communication, April 17, 2019)

​GSA Vice President Lucy Blevins considers sustainability to be a key issue of the GSA Executive Alliance Platform for 2019-2020 and will continue to work with members of Student Government and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs to call for zero waste and sustainable practices. Troy emphasizes that “this joint legislation is symbolic of the most important element that should be present in all future sustainability initiatives at the university: collaboration. The conversation about UT sustainability must involve students, faculty, and staff from all offices and departments in a transparent way.”

Resource Recovery was also recognized in April for its internship program. Of over 11,000 student workers on campus, Khristián Méndez Aguirre (pictured above), a third year graduate student majoring in Performance as Public Practice, was one of ten finalists for the 2019 President’s Student Employee of the Year Award. Khristián has primarily served as a graphic designer during his three year tenure with Resource Recovery. In this capacity, he has created visual concepts to communicate zero waste messaging that inspires and informs the university community.

In addition, Resource Recovery was presented with the Helping Hand Tower Award for its role as a community partner with ProjectLEAD, an Office of the Dean of Students project management skill development opportunity. This recognition from the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement honors and highlights excellence in service among students, faculty, and staff at UT Austin. Resource Recovery has supported 21 students across the four years of ProjectLEAD’s existence. The awards ceremony took place on April 24, 2019.


This story was written by Lindsey Hutchison, Resource Recovery