In the year since University of Houston-Victoria President Tim Hudson signed a commitment to drastically reduce and eventually eliminate the university's greenhouse gas emissions, UHV has made great strides to do just that. Now a committee is looking at ways to do even more.
"UHV is committed to being part of the solution for one of the defining issues of our generation our relationship with our climate," Hudson said. "We're working to model good behavior and taking action to reduce our impact on the environment."
On Aug. 22, 2007, Hudson was the first president from a Texas public university to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, an effort involving more than 500 universities that addresses global warming and accelerates the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate. Universities represented include the University of Colorado-Boulder, Oregon State, Arizona State, Indiana State, New Mexico State, California State, Tulane and Duke.
UHV and other colleges and universities that have signed the accord agree to create a plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as practically possible and to promote the research and education needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Although UHV already was committed to reducing its emissions, the university has done more since Hudson signed the commitment, Facilities Director Michael Ruland said. Some examples include:
- UHV recycled 24 tons of paper and 20 gallons of crushed fluorescent light bulbs in 2007-2008.
- Environmentally friendly custodial supplies are being used to clean campus buildings.
- The grounds crew is chipping up tree limbs and trimmings to produce compost and mulch for fertilizer.
- The university is using gasoline mulching mowers, which shred grass into small pieces and cut down on the amount of fertilizer needed. Propane mulching mowers will be tested Oct. 3.
In addition, actions such as installing an energy-efficient air conditioning unit in the University West Building and disabling the air conditioning in some buildings at nights, on weekends and during holidays have helped lower electricity use by 12 percent from 2002 to 2008, Ruland said. This has saved UHV about $52,000.
"We're telling our students, faculty, staff and the community that we are serious about being good stewards of the environment," Ruland said.
The university also hopes to build its new two-story, 45,000-square-foot South Texas Regional Center for Economic Development building to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver criteria. The rating system was designed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is the standard for the design, construction and operation of "green" buildings. The center on the UHV campus is expected to open in the fall of 2010.
Although architectural and construction costs are higher to build a LEED-compliant building, it saves money in the long run because the building is more energy efficient, said Wayne Beran, UHV vice president for administration and finance.
"With energy costs going up, anything we can do to reduce consumption is a good idea," he said. "We're going to design the building to meet the criteria, and we hope we'll be able to build it that way."
UHV also has formed a committee chaired by Ruland and made up of students, faculty and staff to identify other ways UHV can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
"This is not just about us saving money," Ruland said. "It's about sustainability and the environment."
UHV student Nicole Marie Garcia, who is a committee member, said she is happy to help UHV with its environmental efforts.
"I think this is really important," she said. "Students are not just concerned about where they go to school and the town where they live, they're concerned about the future of the earth and stopping global warming."
The climate commitment is inspired by the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and other efforts by states and businesses. It is coordinated and supported by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Second Nature and ecoAmerica. For more information, go to www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.