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.
The Office of Sustainability was established the following year to promote sustainable campus operations.
The university hired its first director of sustainability in 2009 to support and promote the many existing efforts on campus as well as to initiate new collaborations among students, faculty, and staff in pursuing sustainability on campus. The office is part of the Planning, Energy and Facilities (PEF) portfolio within University Operations.
What is Sustainability?
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.”
Why Do We Care About Sustainability?
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.
It's About Culture Change
The University of Texas at Austin seeks to create a disciplined culture of excellence that generates intellectual excitement, transforms lives, and develops leaders. The Commission of 125 defines this culture as “excellence in all University endeavors, characterized by strong leadership and an engaged intellectual community, combined with individual and institutional accountability.” This includes excellence in advancing environmental stewardship and sustainability on our campus, in our academic and research programs, and in our public service and outreach activities.
Sustainability in the Academy
While the mission of Facilities and Administrative Services is to deliver continually improving, high-quality services to the campus academic community, sustainability is becoming an increasing focus in university academics as well. A UT Austin Sustainability Academic Catalog is currently in development. Several research centers focus on sustainability including the Environmental Science Institute and the Center for Sustainable Development. The university has recently initiated two new degree programs focused on sustainability, with more curriculum development underway. There are also, of course, several student groups leading the way on sustainability.