The Green Fund brings sustainable change to UT

Green Fund
The Green Fund, formerly known as Green Fee, is a competitive grant program that draws from a pool of money collected from each enrolled student.

Energy reduction, recycling initiatives, and native landscaping: this year, four new Green Fund grants continue to spear-head sustainable change in Financial and Administrative Services (FAS) at The University of Texas at Austin.

The Green Fund, formerly known as Green Fee, is a competitive grant program that draws from a pool of money collected from each enrolled student. Since 2011, a student-majority committee that includes faculty and staff has reviewed hundreds of proposals and distributed over three million dollars to over 170 sustainability-related projects and initiatives. A good portion of those initiatives—over 50—has been affiliated with FAS.

In the current 2018-19 cycle, 17 of 28 proposals were funded, distributing a total of just over $300,000. Four of the funded projects will be managed within FAS: a proposal to add a rain garden to the East Mall, developing a patch of native Blackland prairie with corresponding educational materials, installing energy-saving motion sensors in the Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory, and funding recycling signage at the Center for Electromechanics. The first two projects are proposed in coordination with Landscape Services, and the latter two projects are at the Pickle Research Campus.

“FAS has been central to many Green Fund projects over the years that improve campus operations with innovative green ideas, both as direct grantees and as essential partners,” says Jill Parrish, the Green Fund program coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. “We are pleased that four new projects have received funding this year.”

In addition to the four projects funded this grant cycle, Green Fund has been instrumental in creating sustainable change in FAS over the last seven years:

Energy projects include building audits for the energy conservation program, switching to LED lights in Duren Residence Hall, optimizing the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system and checking air quality in BME, moving the campus towards Dark Sky certification, developing software to forecast cooling demands to determine optimal operation, and providing matching funds to a solar array on the FC3 building in the Facilities Complex.

Water projects include purchasing a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to assess grass health/reduce water consumption on the LBJ Library lawn and the installation of rainwater harvesting on campus.

Zero waste projects include developing educational recycling campaigns, studying the effect of recycling communications, installing over 50 indoor and outdoor water bottle filling stations, purchasing a human-electric cargo bike for Resource Recovery’s waste audits, implementing the new Zero Waste Workplace and paper towel composting, helping Texas Athletics sort game-day waste through the Sustainability Squad, reducing clinical and laboratory waste, and initiating composting in Housing and Dining.

Landscaping projects include milling of trees harvested on campus, repurposing harvested wood as furniture, removing invasive plants and stabilizing banks of Waller Creek with native species, transforming 350 sq yds in front of the Butler School of Music into a more sustainable landscape, and developing a tree nursery at LBJ Wildflower Center.

Transportation projects include funding increased bicycle infrastructure on campus, starting and maintaining the bike rental and repair shop known as the Orange Bike Project, advertising the benefits of alternative transportation and bike registration, and evaluating the UT shuttle system.

Storm water projects include replacing impervious with a pervious pavement to increase filtering of rainwater before it reaches Waller Creek.

“The Green Fund has spurred creative approaches to sustainability in FAS, especially by providing seed funding for new ideas and creating partnerships between operations and faculty and students,” says Dean Hansen, Director of Facilities Services and a member of the President’s Sustainability Steering Committee. “The ability to change our operations is critical as we move forward in the 21st century and face multiple challenges in energy, water and waste.”