In addition to activities and operations, some sustainability-related issues prompt the institution to consider policy changes. The President’s Sustainability Steering Committee (PSSC) is the primary deliberative body for sustainability policy changes; below are both existing policies and those currently in consideration.
Commitments and Memberships
The university is a member of several organizations related to sustainability in higher education:
- Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
- Participated in their STARS pilot program. Achieved a Silver rating in STARS 1.2. Currently planning to resubmit under STARS 2.0.
- Clinton Global Initiative
- Follow the university’s progress on our CGI commitment.
- United States Green Building Council
- The university pursues a United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating of Silver on all new buildings.
UT Austin Sustainability Policy
The University of Texas at Austin adopted a Campus Sustainability Policy in 2008 in response to student, faculty, and staff interest. The Campus Sustainability Policy has provided a framework for additional policies and recommendations which have since been crafted to address special focus areas.
UT System Sustainability Policy
In 2009, The University of Texas System developed UTS 169 Sustainability Practices Policy at the direction of the Board of Regents to reflect its commitment to stewardship of the environment and promotion of the principles of energy efficiency and sustainability. The highlights of the plan address nine primary areas: energy and water efficiency, alternative energy, climate protection, sustainable transportation, waste and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, high performance buildings, sustainability awareness training, and community outreach.
Green Purchasing Policy
In 2012, a green purchasing policy was incorporated into the university’s Handbook of Business Procedures. While the initial policy is broad and general, the Office of Purchasing and Office of Sustainability are collaborating on more detailed recommendations that are realistic and substantive.
Greenhouse Gas Inventory
In 2009, the university produced its first Greenhouse Gas Inventory. While UT Austin is not a signatory to the President’s Climate Commitment, the PSSC and student groups actively discuss means of reducing campus generated greenhouse gas emissions and potential carbon offset programs.
Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS)
Beginning in 2008, the university participated in the pilot of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a self-reporting framework designed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for use by colleges and universities. The university continues to participate and reporting is coordinated by the Office of Sustainability. The university participates in other national sustainability reporting tools such as the Princeton Review’s Green University survey, the Sustainable Endowment Institute’s Green Report Card and the international GreenMetric.
The University of Texas at Austin earned a Silver rating under STARS version 2.0 submitted in April 2014.
UT Austin Endowment Investment Policy
Higher Education institutions are often asked about how sustainability factors into endowment investment policy. UT Austin’s investments are managed by the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO); see their policies on environmental and social investment factors [pdf].