Sustainability in Engagement
April 6, 2020
Yen Pham, Eco Rep
Caitlin Griffith, Sustainability Coordinator
Community engagement is a vital component of sustainability and the integral part of the Office of Sustainability’s mission. Through the Office of Sustainability and other departments and organizations, the University has been able to help students participate in sustainability in a holistic way. Encouraging students to partake in leadership and collaboration within their campus, community, and beyond propel development of skills for vital students beyond college.
The Office of Sustainability launched the Eco Rep program in 2017 to offer student leaders the opportunity to kickstart sustainability projects and programs at UT Dallas. Eco Reps help lead sustainability through initiatives such as Bee Campus USA, Tree Campus Higher Education, Bike Friendly University, Sustainable Semesters, Comet Composting Training, Campus Cleanups, Campus Race to Zero Waste, marketing and outreach, and more. The Office of Sustainability has recently established collaboration with UT Dallas Dining Services and faculty members to launch the Comet Honey program. Dr. Scott Rippel provides honey harvested by the students who help tend the apiaries on our campus. When available, jars may be purchased at pop-up farmers markets on campus for a recommended ?5 donation to go towards future Eco Rep projects.
The Green Initiative is a student-led committee of Student Government. The initiative aims to improve campus sustainability issues such as infrastructure and efficiency projects, recycling and wastewater reduction efforts, or other sustainability initiatives as proposed by students. During spring of 2019, Student Government partnered with the Office of Sustainability to launch a 10-week program focused on the global water crisis. Participants explored the scarcity of water in the U.S. and around the world and attended lectures from experts on topics of water capture systems to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The course met twice a week for a seminar-style discussion on provided materials and was free for all students, staff, and faculty to attend. This year, some projects Green Initiative are taking on are Comet Composting Training, reducing on-campus single-use plastic, and increasing access to healthy and sustainable food.
UT Dallas holds an annual Earth Week where the campus comes together to celebrate sustainability through interactive and educational events and programs. The Office of Sustainability works closely with the Office of Student Volunteerism to design an Earth Fair and other educational and service-oriented events held throughout the week. In 2019, 891 students, faculty, and staff participated in Earth Week. 166 volunteer hours through Earth Week were recorded, which equates to $4,000 donated through events such as Operation Upcycle, Butterfly Flutterby, and Community Garden workshops. It was also UT Dallas’s first zero-waste Earth Week.
2019 Earth Week Program Summary and Impact (PDF [Portable Document Format File] )
For 2020, Earth Week will be held online through a digital resource library created and shared by our campus community and local businesses and nonprofits.
Every year, the University also holds Viva Volunteer, an annual service event where hundreds of UT Dallas students, staff, and faculty come together to serve and make a difference within the community. The UT Dallas 2019 Viva Volunteer event had 462 participants working with 22 of our community partners! Those volunteering with the Office of Sustainability planted six red oak trees by the Visitor’s Center entrance and helped provide maintenance to the north campus apiary. For 4 years in a row, our office has utilized Viva Volunteer to celebrate Texas Arbor Day, filling two requirements for our Tree Campus Higher Education recertification.
Viva Volunteer Highlights and Information (PDF [Portable Document Format File] )
Another way students engage in service is through the Sustainability Service Honors program. The following honor is bestowed to graduating students who give service that advance any of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Some examples of service within these goals include volunteering at a food pantry in efforts to end hunger, completing an unpaid internship researching coral reef health to support life under water, and recruiting for the Society of Women Engineers to support gender equality. Students who document the 250 required hours by the time of their graduation receive a certificate announcing their achievement and UN Sustainable Development Goal pin.