Sustainability at Texas Tech is a top priority.
With the right amount of collaboration, no goal is out of reach. At least not at Texas Tech University. And there is one initiative on campus where teamwork has elevated the institution to new heights: sustainability.
For the first time, Texas Tech has been recognized as a STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) Silver Institution by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
To complete the STARS report, the Office of Sustainability requests and collects information from department representatives across campus every year. After five years of a consistent Bronze rating, team members from the Operations Division, the Office of Sustainability, Accounting Services and the Office of Research Services joined forces to push us over the threshold.
Karen Marin-Hines, the current campus sustainability officer; Carey Hewett, the former campus sustainability officer; Lori Eppler, senior director of reporting at Accounting Services; Amy Cook, associate vice president for research in the Office of Research and Innovation; and countless others worked to identify new areas of research and initiatives on campus which fit the STARS sustainability goals.
“To get a Silver rating, you have to have a score of at least 45, and last year, I noticed that we were within just a few points of that number,” said Eppler. “I wanted to make sure we weren't leaving any points on the table as close as we were.”
After employing new tactics for collecting data from across campus and digging deeper into the research, the team not only exceeded 45 points, they used the opportunity to showcase the hard work and dedication the entire Red Raider community is putting into sustainability.
According to Hewett, it has become increasingly obvious that sustainability isn't just important to those in the Office of Sustainability. The interest shown by students, faculty and staff across campus makes it all the more important to raise awareness of the initiatives in place and the impact they're having on our university.
“Without a doubt, I think it's important to report on what Texas Tech University is doing on the sustainability front because it's important to our staff, it's important to our faculty, and it's certainly important to our students that are looking at Texas Tech as a potential home for their education,” said Hewett.
“It's also very important to set an example as a university for our students that are coming to Texas Tech about how to be sustainable and make it part of your work and part of your everyday activities,” he continued.
And Texas Tech's Silver ranking is doing just that – leading by example.
“We all impact sustainability every time we press the button to print or remember to turn our computer off when we leave at night,” said Hewett. “It's on all of us to improve sustainability, and I think this STARS report and the ranking we get is a great way to represent and highlight the efforts here on campus.”
Indeed, the STARS report has shown firsthand that Texas Tech is dedicated to sustainability, but it has also shown something even deeper about the spirit of our university. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned here is about collaboration and the willingness to go out of the way to help one another.
“We don't classify this as an Office of Sustainability success,” said Marin-Hines. “It's a Texas Tech University success because it does come down to what departments all across campus are doing to support this endeavor.”
For the entire team, there was one resounding theme: the willingness to help from everyone involved has made this award that much better.
“Different departments have helped us gather the data that we needed to submit, and it's not something that's necessarily part of their job duty,” said Hewett. It's just something they're willing to do to help us so we can put Texas Tech in a good light as far as sustainability efforts. It's been nice seeing everybody's willingness to help us on this.”
“As Texas Tech continues to grow, creating a sustainable footprint should be an important part of the future,” said Cook. “I do not believe that the same results would have been accomplished without the relationships departments across campus have developed.”
“It's been really great to see the support from across campus and people being willing to work with us,” said Marin-Hines. “And, like I said, it's a Texas Tech accomplishment. So, helping us highlight that even more has just been amazing. I am super appreciative of everybody that has participated in the report and everyone that helped us get here.”
“It really was a team effort with lots of different offices involved, and that is something that I really enjoy about working at Tech,” said Eppler. “People are always willing to help, and it's fun whenever you can come together, collaborate and get recognition like this. It's really nice to see it pay off.”