Sustainability or Accountability?

By Lilly Quiroz

Texas Tech University was recently ranked No. 215 among the Sierra Club 2017 “Cool Schools.” Universities were ranked according to sustainability practices in areas such as innovation and academics.

Texas A&M University came in at No. 127.

Other Texas schools that ranked higher than Tech include Rice University, University of Texas Arlington, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, University of Houston, Baylor University, and University of North Texas.

University of Texas at Austin was not ranked.

Each of the 227 universities that submitted data by the deadline were eligible to be ranked.

The Sierra Club explained their ranking methodology as the following: “In past years, we awarded partial points on many questions even if schools reported no progress in that area. This was something of a hangover from the earliest iterations of our rankings systems, when we felt that it was important to reward schools simply for conducting audits and surveys of their sustainability operations.”

“Cool Schools” score for Texas Tech University.

Texas Tech attained 310.41 out of a possible 1,000 points. The number one university attained 779.58 points. Texas Tech received the least amount of points in the transport and energy category.

Transport: 19.95/123 points

Energy: 31.89/264

Texas Tech set a goal to reduce its consumption of gasoline by 11,412 gallons for fiscal year 2016. Instead, there was an increase of 4,768 gallons from the previous year. In 2016, 233,012 gallons of gasoline were consumed.

Mark Stoll, a professor of environmental history at Texas Tech, said electric buses would be an impressive step for Texas Tech toward becoming more environmentally sustainable.

A 2016 report published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that battery-electric buses can be nearly four times more fuel-efficient than buses fueled by compressed natural gas.

Aside from reducing fuel consumption, every bus would be capable of eliminating 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide over a 12-year lifespan, which is equivalent to removing 27 cars off the road.

Since 2000, Texas Tech’s energy use has experienced a 27 percent decrease. Although the university did not meet its 2016 energy goal, there was a 0.2 percent decrease from the previous year.

According to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), Texas Tech reported the total energy consumption for the 2016 performance year as 1,357,809 MMBtu, which is equivalent to almost 400 million kWh. Less than one percent (9,053 MMBtu) is clean and renewable electricity generated on site.

Texas Tech has some projects in progress and others in consideration. The Operations Divisions’ energy management confirmed a 43 percent energy reduction for the Robert Ewalt Student Recreation Center. This multi-year project was initiated in fiscal year 2103. Additionally, the Operations Division will consider a proposal to install some View Dynamic Glass on the south face of the Media and Communications tower. This glass would reduce annual energy costs.

The Sierra Club website stated, “In 2017, the top-rated university scored 779.58 out of a possible 1,000 points, proving that, in higher education as in the rest of society, there is much room for improvement.“

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