Teaching Sustainability Virtually at Summer Orientation

Sustainable Living at UT - title slide

Every summer, excited new students flock to the UT campus in order to attend Orientation. During their visit, students get their feet wet with campus life including how to live more sustainably while at UT. This year was no different. Becuase UT Orientation programs were hosted virtually, incoming students instead flocked to Zoom rooms to meet with advisors, chat with student organization leaders, and more.

Thanks to the leadership of students from University Housing & Dining, Campus Environmental Center, and Resource Recovery, the summer sustainability programming was quickly transitioned to an online format. Although new students were logging in from their hometowns, participation levels were similar to past years for the sustainability session. Students learned how to take the bus to get around town, the best places to find a vegan meal near campus, and how to reduce their consumption through thrifiting. They had the opporutnity to connect with seasoned student leaders and ask detailed questions about sustainabiltiy at UT.

Siddha Sannigrahi, student Co-Director of the Campus Environmental Center, described the benefits of introducing sustainability to students at Orientation. "Getting sustainability in front of students from the very beginning allows them to understand that sustainability is a priority for UT. Integrating the idea of being sustainable within the Longhorn identity gives students greater motivation to pursue opportunities, resources, and knowledge; it breaks down the common misconception that sustainability is only for a certain type of student. Sustainability looks very different across campus, there are a multitude of departments, student organizations and initiatives that are helping in making UT more sustainable. The virtual orientation sessions gave students the opportunity to hear from several student leaders having more students able to share their experiences reinforces the understanding that sustainability is a broad discipline."

In order to make this information accessible year-round, the student leaders worked together to create a Student Guide to Sustainable Living, available on the Texas Sustainability website. The guide covers a range of topics including where to find native plants on campus, how to report water leaks, how to get involved in equity and social justice issues.