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UNT Insider | October 2009 Issue | UNT among top in nation in meeting goals of sustainability program

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UNT among top in nation in meeting goals of sustainability program

From a UNT News Service press release

Todd Spinks

Todd Spinks

UNT continues to lead all four-year schools in Texas in its efforts toward creating a carbon neutral campus, according to reports submitted to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

Since UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille signed the commitment in April 2008, UNT has met five of the seven tangible actions required. This means UNT is at the forefront of environmental stewardship in the state. According to the ACUPCC's web site, UNT's accomplishment puts it in the top 17 percent of all colleges and universities nationwide.

"I'm very proud that in only 18 months UNT has achieved five of the ACUPCC's requirements," President Bataille says. "Environmental stewardship has long been a UNT tradition and our achievement is a testament to the success of the array of sustainability programs under way on our campus."

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

By signing the agreement, Bataille committed the university to:

  • completing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory,
  • setting a target date and interim milestones for becoming carbon neutral,
  • taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
  • integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience,
  • making the climate action plan, emissions inventory and progress reports publicly available.

"We've done extremely well to this point," says Todd Spinks, UNT's director of sustainability. "Now we have to develop and implement the climate action plan to achieve our ultimate goal of making our campus carbon neutral."

The climate action plan is expected to be adopted in the spring of 2010.

As part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, UNT also recently announced the formation of two new collaborative research clusters that will build on innovative environmental research already under way on the campus. In one of the research clusters, a collaborative team of scientists from several disciplines will study the creation of new plant-based products. That could include, for example, such items as soy-based adhesives, new fibers with improved properties for construction or bio-based lubricants.

In the second research cluster, UNT scientists will continue ongoing research and conservation in the sub-Antarctic, building on UNT's strength in environmental sciences and philosophy. For several years, UNT has been working with the government of Chile, universities and nonprofit organizations, to make the Cape Horn Biosphere Preserve a formal, long-term ecological research site. This area lies at the tip of South America, and is the largest protected area in Latin America, 10 times the size of Yellowstone National Park.

UNT has been a recognized leader in environmental research for more than 74 years. Pioneering water quality research led to the formation of the Institute of Applied Sciences, an interdisciplinary research consortium that is widely recognized as a leader in environmental research. Its scientists, who are faculty members in the biology, computer science, geography, math and philosophy departments, have conducted studies for federal, state and local agencies and industry representatives.

That academic tradition has had an effect on campus life as a number of green and energy-efficient programs are conserving water and energy and saving UNT money. The recycling program collects paper, aluminum, plastic, cardboard, Styrofoam, printer cartridges and fluorescent tubes. In one six-month period, the university collected 133 tons of paper and 56 tons of cardboard. Processes are currently being developed to move UNT toward becoming a zero solid-waste campus.

The housing department recently installed low-flow, air-injected shower heads and faucets in most residence hall rooms. And frontload washing machines have replaced the water-gobbling top-load variety. Those and other water-saving features in the residence halls are annually saving UNT 8.2 million gallons of water and $56,000.

In addition, UNT has saved more than $1.2 million a year on energy costs during the last 10 years by signing an energy savings performance contract. The contractor has replaced inefficient lighting and installed a digital control system on most mechanical equipment. Variable frequency drives placed on pump and fan motors allow that equipment to run at a lower-than-maximum energy output.

Buddy Price with UNT News Service can be reached at Buddy.Price@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

October 2009

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