2-year-old Sustainability Master Plan makes strides in athletics, energy

Jackson Barton

The University successfully reduced energy use per square foot by 20 percent two years ahead of schedule. 

This was just one of the goals of the Sustainability Master Plan, said Jim Walker, UT’s director of sustainability. Walker addressed a small group of mostly colleagues Monday to discuss some of the achievements, challenges and updates of the plan. 

UT President Gregory Fenves approved the plan September 2016. The 73-page document addresses a variety of topics such as introducing sustainability during undergraduate orientation, finding different uses for uneaten food and creating a more environmentally friendly fleet of University vehicles. 

Meetings are held every two years, and on Monday the members discussed a compost route to allow expanded collection at lower costs. University Resource Recovery, a branch of the Facilities Services that implements Zero Waste goals, plans to have the route by the end of this semester. 

“When I came here in 2008, I couldn’t find a single recycling bin,” said Stephanie Perrone, Facility Services strategic program support manager. “There’s been great strides since then, but there’s a lot still left to do.”

Walker said Texas Athletics is also worth noting because 90 percent of waste generated in the baseball stadium was diverted from landfills last season.

Texas Athletics received the Green Sports Alliance Innovator of the Year in June for being the first Division I organization to achieve a Zero Waste baseball season.

Walker mentioned a lack of University-wide sustainable food policy. Walker said University Housing and Dining, Texas Athletics and University Unions write their own contracts with food service providers independent from each other.

“There’s nothing wrong or bad with how any one of them are doing their business,” Walker said. “It’s just not consistent from an institutional point of view.” 

McKenzie Beverage, senior UT Zero Waste coordinator, said implementing recyclable and compostable food packaging across campus is a challenge because of the lack of policy.

“When we’re thinking about recyclable cups versus compostable cups, we would love for it to just be the same across campus, but it doesn’t always work out that way when you have that many different food service providers,” Beverage said.

Walker said he has a positive outlook on the future of the plan and sustainable policy on campus.

“I do feel like we’re able to mark achievement on a number of things,” Walker said. “I’m personally hopeful that this policy conversation will really drive some other things.”