The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Office of Sustainability works to promote green thinking

Photo by Photo by Rachel Grant

Howdy Farm serves as a place on campus for sustainability organizations to teach eco-friendly practices.

With more than 60,000 students attending Texas A&M, it can be easy to forget about the impact humans make on the environment, especially on a campus-wide level. However, since the 2008 opening of the Office of Sustainability, multiple campus and student-led initiatives have been trying to make that impact known.
The Office of Sustainability operations coordinator Lara Hendrickson said there are three main pillars to creating a sustainable environment: Environmental, social and economic.
“Essentially sustainability is about being good stewards and making sure that we’re meeting the needs of our current generation, while also ensuring the future generations can meet those same needs,” Hendrickson said. “It touches on all aspects of human life because we need to be acting in a way that is responsible and ethical and conserving what we have, while also not overexploiting our resources.”
But with the growing number of students and faculty on campus, Hendrickson said outreach has proven to be a challenge. While the Office of Sustainability does not always oversee these projects directly, using the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS), the office is able to measure these improvements.
Hendrickson said significant measures have been taken with campus waste-diversion, or the process of diverting waste that ends up in landfills.
“It’s a big focus area that we’re really trying to improve on,” Hendrickson said. “For fiscal year 2016, we were able to divert 71 percent of the waste produced on campus, and we also have all of our pre-consumer waste in dining halls getting composted.”
In addition to faculty-led efforts, student-led initiatives such as Sustainable Agriculture Student Association (SASA), aim to teach Aggies hands-on eco-friendly practices at Howdy Farm, a student-led farm on campus that sells produce at the Brazos Valley Farmer’s Market.
Kelly Karstadt, education and sustainability SASA co-officer, said the use of a rain catcher system, solar panels and recently a sink help make a difference in the organic farm’s operations.
“We haven’t completely implemented this yet, but we’re going to install some kind of catchment underneath [the sink]. The water that we use will drain into it and we will use that to water our plants — as opposed to using the sink water inside — and it just goes down the drain,” Karstadt said. “We’re utilizing the gray water and putting it back into our plants. Washing plants can take a long time, and it’s more convenient for us and saves a ton of water.”
Recreation, parks and tourism junior Aidan Riley said changes within both the university and city would benefit students and residents.
“It might be asking a lot, but it would be sweet if A&M could make up for College Station’s lack of recycling programs offered elsewhere, like for plastics numbered less than two, or cardboard especially,” Riley said.
Getting involved isn’t just for students. Hendrickson said more outreach with staff members can be expected in the future.
“Faculty and Staff are extremely important; they set an example for others, they interact with students,” Hendrickson said. “The Sustainable Office Certification provides a platform for faculty and staff to A) learn more about the behaviors they can take that lead up to a larger impact, and B) helps recognize their amazing work and showcase to others what you can do to get involved and lead by example.”
Further plans from the Office of Sustainability will be featured in their goals listed in the upcoming Sustainability Master Plan.
While these initiatives help to create a more eco-friendly tomorrow for Texas A&M, Karstadt said it’s ultimately up to individuals to make a lasting impact.
“Top-down is not a very effective method,” Karstadt said. “If everybody just becomes aware of [sustainability] and wants to help, then it can build up into something bigger.”

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