Gail of Green Living

The $5 Impact: The Burnt Orange goes GREEN

University of Texas at Austin

When I think of “green cities“, I think first of Seattle or Austin, Texas.  Their city governments have done a lot to green their communities.  But The University of Texas at Austin had not done so much.  And with over 50,000 students, its population is the size of a small town at least.  The University opened its Office of Sustainability in 2009, but the costs of carrying out the mission were expensive.  In 2011, the student body voted in a “green fee” of $5 per semester and $2.50 for a summer session, added to their fees.  This fee adds over half million dollars for projects.  Here are some examples of campus and campus life changes taking place:

  • Added gooseneck water fountains at high-traffic spots on campus to encourage students to fill their own water bottle.
  • Invasive plants removed from Waller Creek, so that student groups can enjoy the creek as well as monitor it through an Adopt-A-Stream program.
  • The Perry Castaneda Library has installed paper recycling bins inside and outside the library where more than 5,000 students use the facility each day.
  • A vacant lot in East Campus has been transformed into an organic micro-farm to grow fruits and vegetables to serve in campus dining rooms.
  • Students and faculty from the LBJ School of Public Affairs are now recycling and composting at their weekly luncheons.  More than 2,000 pounds of waste have been kept from landfills since this project began.
  • You’ve seen car charging stations; UT has installed a charging station outside the Perry Castaneda Library where students can charge their electronic devices, including electric scooters.
  • Additional bicycle parking has been installed across campus
  • The first large-scale tree nursery has been established for reforestation purposes.  It is located at the Pickle Research Campus.  The student-operated facility has the capacity for over 300,000 seedlings!

These are campus projects and do not reflect any efforts toward sustainability that classrooms, dorms and other campus groups and facilities are implementing on their own.  I can imagine there is a visual impact on the students and faculty that causes them to have a more responsible, sustainable lifestyle when they leave campus.

I think the students must feel they are getting a good return on their $5 investment in a greener campus.  HOOK ‘EM!

Information from the Alcalde, July/August 2012


Not your Usual Compost Materials

Our family has been recycling since the early 70’s, and composting is part of recycling.   The end product is there for you to use in your garden.  There are the obvious candidates for the pile…leaves, grass clippings, small branches and twigs and even an occasional banana peel.

My Living Compost

From the top, our tomato vines from this summer’s crop; I need to clip them up into smaller pieces so they will break down faster.  In the middle is a mixture of yard waste from a neighbor, and at the front you can see some really rich, dark soil ready to mix in the pots for my fall vegetables.  The pile can reduce from about 3′ high to 1′ high quickly with frequent watering and turning.

But I have recently learned of several items that I had not ever thought to compost.  Here are the Top Ten:
10. Pizza boxes, torn into small pieces; you can even include pizza crust.
9.  Cellophane bags, not clear plastic (amazing!)
8.  Wine corks…of course, they are organic!
7.  Old jelly, jam or preserves; who has any that is old?
6.  Old loofahs
5.  Dryer lint; the birds also like this for nesting material.
4.  Pencil shavings from your sharpener and also hole puncher confetti.
3.  Contents of the vacuum cleaner bag or cannister–just take it back outside from where it came.
2.  Hair from your brush or shower drain, or bring it home when you get a haircut.
1.  Latex balloons

By creating a working, living compost pile we can make more room in our land fill and save the life of our disposal, too!  The result is organic, rich dark soil material to add to our garden and pot plants, instead of chemicals.  Let me know how yours is working!