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UNT Insider | April 2008 Issue | Presidents climate commitment

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UNT becomes first major public university in Texas to sign presidents climate commitment

From a UNT News Service press release

UNT is the first large public university in Texas to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, a growing nationwide initiative of college and university presidents and chancellors dedicated to counteracting climate change by taking steps to make their campuses climate neutral.

By signing the agreement, UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille is committing the university to completing an emissions inventory, setting a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral, taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions, integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience, and making the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available.

"Signing this commitment further demonstrates the University of North Texas' focus on being a green campus — something that has long been part of the UNT tradition. It also supports the array of sustainability efforts we already are undertaking and provides a path for our future green commitment plans," Bataille says. "And of course, being green is just natural at the home of the Mean Green."

Other universities in the region participating in the effort include the University of Arkansas, the University of Oklahoma, Trinity University in San Antonio, the University of Houston Victoria and Houston Community College. Other member institutions nationwide include Arizona State University, Cornell University, the University of Washington and the University of Colorado at Boulder. The top administrators at more than 500 universities and colleges nationwide already have signed the agreement.

A university that has long been associated with environmental consciousness, UNT recently convened a sustainability council appointed by Bataille. The group, which comprises faculty, staff and students from a variety of disciplines and departments, will undertake the tasks of assessing what sustainability efforts are being done on campus; identifying what other initiatives can and should be undertaken to promote sustainability; and determining how to implement the objectives promoted in the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.

UNT already has implemented extensive ecologically friendly and energy efficient standards, including a policy that any new buildings constructed on campus meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standard.

The university also is working to increase the environmental consciousness of students, faculty and staff. UNT is the first university in the nation to partner with The Chiapas Project — a nonprofit organization designed to help improve the lives of women and families in some of the world's poorest countries — in its Recycle to Eradicate Poverty fundraising program. UNT has also instituted Go Green, a campaign targeted at providing students living on campus with tips and information they can use to become better stewards of the environment.

As part of Go Green, at least one filtered water fountain has been installed at each of the university's residence halls. And reusable water bottles are being provided to students for use at the fountains and in the campus's dining halls. Chuck Fuller, assistant vice president for business services, says the idea behind the Refill Not Landfill initiative is to encourage students to use the reusable bottles instead of buying as much bottled water.

UNT's focus on environmental issues also includes extensive faculty and student involvement in research and learning opportunities:

The university's Institute of Applied Sciences has been conducting environmental research for nearly 40 years, has seven major program areas and is conducting numerous projects for industry, as well as local, state and federal agencies.

The Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies has the nation's leading program in environmental ethics/philosophy. At the graduate level, the department's doctoral degree program emphasizes work in environmental ethics and philosophy. In addition, the department is home to the first journal in the field, Environmental Ethics (founded in 1979), as well as the Center for Environmental Philosophy.

UNT is working, along with several Chilean organizations and the government of Chile, to develop a plan to protect, preserve and sustain the Cape Horn Biosphere Preserve, one of the last true wilderness areas in the world. Scientists from UNT are part of a collaborative effort working on finding a way to develop sustainable economic benefits for the indigenous people of the area with the support of a $15 million grant from the government of Chile.

Regents Professor of geography Miguel Acevedo is researching Venezuelan rainforests that are being harvested in rotation periods of 30 years — far quicker than the 100 years his simulation results indicate are required for ecosystem recovery. Acevedo uses real-time technology and collaborates with a team of researchers across the globe to study human relationships with natural ecosystems. The National Science Foundation has provided funding for Acevedo's research.

Inorganic chemistry undergraduate students are exploring optoelectronic applications of luminescent materials. Recently, they have been working to design bright phosphors for efficient organic light-emitting diodes, which are considered a long-term solution for researchers working to develop solid-state lighting that is longer lasting, more energy efficient and has less environmental impact than incandescent and fluorescent lighting. The research is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy.

A recent study abroad session in Nepal by eight students from UNT's planned biological and environmental engineering program furthered their understanding of the human impact on the environment.

UNT News Service Press Release
Mark Wright can be reached at mwright@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

April 2008

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