UNT’s sustainability efforts earn national recognition

Monday, April 29, 2013 - 15:42

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The University of North Texas has become a leader in sustainability through collaborations, education, research and its daily operations, and has reduced its carbon footprint by more than a half billion pounds, since becoming the first Texas university to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) five years ago.

By signing the ACUPCC, UNT pledged to adhere to more stringent environmental standards. UNT has built four Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings, has developed robust recycling and energy savings programs, and has become a leader in sustainability education and research.

“UNT’s efforts set it apart as they are a meaningful, holistic approach to being more sustainable. Indeed, the university’s long history as an environmental steward has provided it with the necessary cornerstones to be at the forefront throughout the 21st century,” said Todd Spinks, director of UNT’s Office of Sustainability.


UNT’s campus features four LEED-certified buildings, including the Life Sciences Complex, Business Leadership Building, Apogee Stadium and Highland Street Parking Garage.

The university’s recycling program recycles more than 360 tons of paper and cardboard; 4,800 pounds of cans; and 600,000 plastic bottles annually.

Almost half of the university’s energy comes from renewable sources, and UNT will save $3 million annually through a new SMART energy project that has made more than 120 existing buildings across camps more energy efficient. To date, the SMART project’s environmental impact is equal to more than 6,000 acres of trees planted or the reduction of 20,643 tons of carbon dioxide.

UNT has installed six electrical vehicle charging stations to support the growing population of electric car drivers. Three community-scale wind turbines at Apogee Stadium and a solar panel and a helical wind turbine at the Environmental Education, Science and Technology building also help with energy savings on campus.

UNT’s Dining Services buys fresh ingredients locally for its retail and residential dining locations on campus. The reduction in canned and packaged foods has helped to reduce waste by 40 percent over four years.

These projects and more have helped UNT to reduce its carbon footprint by a half-billion pounds, or 15,517 acres of U.S. forest, and have helped UNT earn rankings from around the globe. Most recently, UNT was listed for the third year in a row in The Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges.”

“UNT is currently positioned among the nation’s elite green universities,” Spinks said. “When considering ACUPCC’s compliance metrics along with the size of the institution, UNT is comparable to the Top 10 green universities in the United States.”

Education and Research

UNT’s eco-friendly education legacy began with water research in the 1930s. Today, the university combines an earth-friendly philosophy with hands-on experience in sustainable approaches and technologies in a number of fields.

UNT offers about 300 sustainability-related courses from 39 departments. More than 250 researchers conduct sustainability-related research,  and UNT’s Renewable Bioproducts Research Cluster is dedicated to creating green solutions for consumer and industry products using plant, bacteria and other bio-materials.

UNT also was the first university to offer a master’s degree in sustainable tourism.

The Zero Energy Lab, located at UNT’s Discovery Park campus, gives students and researchers the tools to study the next generation of sustainable and renewable energy technologies for residential and commercial buildings. The lab is a state-of-the-art facility - the only one of its kind in Texas – designed to test energy technologies and systems in order to achieve net-zero energy consumption.

"UNT students have the unique opportunity of getting hands-on experience with green technologies that will power our future," said Yong Tao, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering and the PACCAR Professor of engineering, who spearheaded the design and creation of the lab.



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