Unlit UT Tower for Earth Hour

The UT Tower unlit for Earth Hour

The University of Texas at Austin strives to advance environmental and social stewardship on our campus. Some of our initiatives stretch back generations, others are just emerging. We are expanding efforts in academic and research programs, across our operations and in our public service and outreach activities.

Discover specific initiatives and activities underway, and the departments associated with them, using the left sidebar. UT has many staff in many different departments working on sustainability. Refer to the Contact Us page to learn about these staff members and what they do.



  • The university converts the Hal C. Weaver power plant from coal to natural gas. Since then, the main campus has produced all of its own electrical power, and the heating and cooling for all buildings.


  • The first Earth Day was celebrated in April 1970. SCOPE, the Student Committee on Pollution of the Environment, was formed and the students set up kiosks on the West Mall. A series of teach-ins were held with professors on environmental topics. A workshop on population growth, held in the union, had to turn students away because the room was overflowing.
  • The Frank Erwin Center was constructed, triggering protests about tree removal.


  • The University of Texas at Austin bus system is established. It will become one of the largest university transit systems in the country.


  • In response to state legislation mandating waste diversion by state institutions, the campus begins to collect paper and cardboard.


  • The Environmental Science Institute is created in the Jackson School of Geosciences. The institute creates an ongoing lecture series called Hot Science—Cool Talks. The series is open to the public and offers teaching modules for K-12 teachers.
  • The U Conserve program is founded by staff and students to save energy on campus. This will eventually become the UTakeCharge Energy Stewardship Program.


  • The Campus Environmental Center (CEC), a new student group, is established with the mission “to empower the UT community to reduce its negative environmental impact and to foster a genuine culture of sustainability on campus through collaborative and constructive means.”
  • The Center for Sustainable Development is a new research center established in the School of Architecture.
  • The university participates in the first-ever Bi-Annual National Solar Decathlon.


  • A Sustainability Committee is launched to encourage campus wide collaboration. This will become The University of Texas at Austin Sustainability Network. Staff meet monthly to work on grassroots initiatives and learn more about sustainable lifestyles.


  • The University of Texas at Austin Childcare Center opens as the first green building on campus.
  • The university joins as a charter member institution of AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE's purpose is to strengthen campus sustainability efforts and provide a professional network for individuals from various campuses who are working towards common goals.
  • The Campus Environmental Center plans and organizes the first Trash to Treasure garage sale to sell departing students’ unwanted household goods to new and returning students. In the first year, the organization diverts approximately five tons from the landfill and raises $5,500.


  • A new course is developed for undergraduates, called Sustaining a Planet Signature.
  • The Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability is established in the Provost’s office. The Center closes in late 2008, but is an indicator of the University's desire to support sustainability research.
  • The Campus Environmental Center’s Students for a Sustainable Campus draft a Campus Sustainability Policy and present it to the President’s office for review.


  • President Powers’ Task Force on Sustainability is organized and begins meeting. This will become the President’s Sustainability Steering Committee.
  • The campus participates in the national RecycleMania competition for the first time and wins first place in the Waste Minimization category.
  • The Demand Side Energy Management and Conservation (DSEMC) program is launched along with UTakeCharge, which encourages individuals to change their behaviors to use less energy and water resources.
  • The Departments for Housing and Food Service provides all residence halls with ENERGY STAR refrigerators, freezers, and microwaves.
  • For the first time, the university participates in National Campus Sustainability Day.
  • The Research Office Complex on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus is completed and becomes the university’s first LEED certified building. During the construction of the building, 95 percent of waste materials were diverted from the landfill and either recycled or reused.
  • The university participates in the National Solar Decathlon and wins second place for Energy and first place for Hot Water.
  • Students organize the first annual Residence Hall Energy Competition, "Do It In The Dark" to encourage reduction of energy use by lighting and personal electronics.
  • Trash to Treasure raises over $20,000 and diverts over 50 tons of landfill material this year.


  • The President’s Task Force on Sustainability establishes working groups to make specific recommendations for the campus.
  • The Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability creates an open forum for the university community to comment on or pose questions about sustainability.


  • A new position, the Director of Sustainability, is created in the Campus Planning and Facilities Management division within University Operations. The position has a broad strategic role tasked with providing support to the President's Sustainability Steering Committee and to build relationships and design projects with deans and academic departments. A large part of the Director's time is dedicated to facilitating communication between and about the many disparate sustainability activities at UT Austin.


  • The Office of Sustainability is established on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
  • Students pass a referendum with 71% support establishing a ‘green fee’ that will generate just over $500,000 a year in funds for ‘environmental service’ projects on campus. Proposals will be solicited from students, faculty and staff and a student majority committee will award funds.


  • The President’s Sustainability Steering Committee delivers the Natural Resources Conservation Plan, establishing goals for resource conservation and reduction.
  • A directory of the university’s expansive academic and research offerings related to sustainability is launched.
  • The Concho Community Garden is established in East Campus with funding from the Green Fee, and co-sponsorship from the Campus Environmental Center, the Division of Housing and Food Service, and the Office of Sustainability.


  • The Orange Bike Project, a student organization formed within the Campus Environmental Center in 2009, becomes officially sponsored by Parking & Transportation Services. The OBP offers a semester rental program and education and advocacy for student bike commuters.
  • The Green Fee-funded UT Tree Nursery provides loblolly pines directly to the reforestation effort in Bastrop State Park. The Tree Nursery is located at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.