University of Texas at Austin Adopts Campus Sustainability Policy

The University of Texas at Austin has adopted a Campus Sustainability Policy to integrate sustainability in academic programs, operations, campus planning, administration and outreach, becoming one of the first Texas public higher education institutions to introduce such a rigorous plan, President William Powers Jr. has announced.

Sustainability refers to societal efforts that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability presumes the planet's resources are finite, and should be used conservatively, wisely and equitably. Decisions and investments aimed to promote sustainability will simultaneously advance economic vitality, ecological integrity and social welfare.

"We are proud of this policy," said Dr. Pat Clubb, vice president for employee and campus services and co-chairperson of the Task Force on Sustainability. "It reflects our commitment to sustainability here at UT, and will serve to guide us as we work together toward more sustainable practices and services."

"One of the strengths of this policy is that it provides goals in each area for advancing sustainability," said Shere Abbott, director of the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability and co-chairperson of the Task Force on Sustainability. "Underlying these goals is the notion that our strong research and innovation programs should help inform decisions and solutions that promote sustainability both here on campus and elsewhere around the world."

The Campus Sustainability Policy requires that university policies, practices and curricula should, when possible, embody approaches that reduce life cycle costs, restore or maintain the functioning of natural systems and enhance human well-being. It calls for the establishment of procedures and mechanisms, including an oversight body, to guide its implementation and ensure accountability.

Students in the Campus Environmental Center, an agency of Student Government, brought the idea for a campus policy on sustainability to Powers and produced the initial draft. Powers established the Task Force on Sustainability in spring 2007 to recommend policies, administrative actions and programs for promoting sustainability. Its membership includes faculty, staff and students who represent academic disciplines, the colleges and academic departments, and the operations and services across the campus. The task force worked with the students on the policy's development and championed its adoption to provide a framework for its further work.

The Campus Sustainability Policy was introduced in the official Handbook of Operating Procedures on April 22. University decisions and actions related to the policy will be guided by the university's mission statement, reflective of the university's resources, and informed by the Commission of 125 and the campus master plan, Clubb said. The full text of the Campus Sustainability Policy can be found online.