What is sustainability?
The Campus Sustainability Policy defines sustainability as "Societal efforts that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This is similar to the seventh-generation philosophy of the Native American Indian Iroquois Confederacy, mandating: "That chiefs always consider the effects of their actions on their descendants seven generations in the future."
The utility systems of our campus have a long history that dates to 1928 and we are motivated to continue this long tradition with a commitment to excellence. UEM's interpretation of the sustainability policy and action plan has been to go beyond compliance in meeting environmental laws and regulations while at the same time conserving resources. These two efforts are sometimes at odds with each other, but we have been successful by living by one key decision-making philosophy: "Just do the right thing."
Our energy systems are located in the middle of campus. This raises challenges to our operations in managing and upgrading facilities since we produce all electricity, steam, and chilled water needed by the majority of facilities on the main campus. To meet the university’s needs and mission, we carefully plan for the future and you can see our successes in these charts (PDF).
The charts demonstrate that we handled campus growth for the period 1996 to 2008 in a carbon-neutral manner. We did this by improving overall efficiency from 62% to 75% over this same period. In other words, all campus energy needs were met without using more fuel.
This was accomplished using the following key action items:
- Simplify operations to improve reliability and operational safety by automating plants, and aligning personnel skills with the use of technology and a culture of excellent service throughout the department
- Perform detailed studies of our systems to identify bottlenecks and opportunities for energy-efficiency improvements
- Replace/upgrade critical infrastructure to continue to support current campus needs
- Increase the energy production capabilities of our facilities to meet future campus needs
- Perform all of the above in a manner that is budget neutral
- Measuring UEM's Carbon Emissions for Generated Energy Streams
- UEM’s Water Conservation Efforts
- UEM’s Power Plant Efficiency Study (PDF)
- UTake Charge
- City of Austin: Water Conservation Efforts
- Clean Air Force of Central Texas
- Clean Texas
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
- EPA Sustainability Page