Rowling Hall aims to become first zero waste university building in Texas

Sara Schleede

In preparation for the McCombs School of Business staff to move into the new graduate building Dec. 18, the hallways and break rooms of Robert B. Rowling Hall are being filled with recycling and compost bins. This move will kick off use of the first university building in Texas to aim for zero waste certification.

“A lot of people assume that this is more common than it is,” said Isabel Comeau, senior administrative assistant in the Energy Management Innovation Center. “But we as a university have so many resources to pull off something like this and to educate people.”

The implementation is part of UT’s plan to divert 90 percent of its waste out of landfills by 2020 and become a Zero Waste Campus. If it succeeds, it will be the first university in Texas to be zero waste certified. As of 2015, UT’s diversion rate is 36 percent.

While Rowling Hall’s certification will not significantly affect the overall campus diversion rate, Robert Moddrell, Resource Recovery manager said this will raise awareness about UT’s zero waste goal and ultimately be more cost-efficient for the University.

“It will start a movement toward the zero waste mentality,” Moddrell said. “As we move into additional buildings, it makes it easier get all buildings to move toward that.”

There are no plans to certify other buildings on campus, but Resource Recovery and the Office of Sustainability plan to implement zero waste habits in two more buildings by the end of the school year.

“We’re trying to move slowly across campus,” Moddrell said. “If we were to go out and tell everybody, ‘Hey, we’re going to go out and put compost containers across campus,’ that probably wouldn’t stick.”

Rowling Hall must maintain a 90 percent diversion rate for a full year in order to be officially zero waste certified. To make this possible, the building will have recycling and compost collection near its cafe as well as in break rooms and at staff desks.

Business graduate student Max Gade, graduate ambassador for the zero waste initiative, said emphasizing the importance of zero waste at universities is valuable so students can adopt more environmentally-conscious and community-conscious habits while still young.

“You come (to college) and you learn technical things, but there’s also a culture that gets put into you by the time you graduate of how you treat other people or how you live your life,” Gade said.