Texas A&M Sustainability Day and The Aggie Green Fund

I had a chance to stop in at the Campus Sustainability Day at my alma mater, Texas A&M today.  It was great to see all the activity.  We definitely didn’t have such when I was in school.

The turnout included various Texas A&M facilities and utilities departments, a number of student committees and organizations, and local businesses. As one example, the Department of Residence Life was showcasing now the series of programs it runs and an Energy Challenge to get students engaged in greening the campus (my old dorm, Lechner, came in bottom third, I noticed).

And the University now also has a 2 year old Office of Sustainability, which has developed the university master sustainability plan around 12 target areas:

  • Management of Climate Change
  • Purchasing of Sustainable Goods and Services
  • Optimization of Energy Use
  • Sustainable Food and Dining
  • Management of Water Resources
  • Waste Management
  • Sustainable Land Use
  • Use of Green Building Practices
  • Utilization of Alternative Transportation and Fuels
  • Improving Social and Economic Factors
  • Education and Research
  • Management and Funding Support

I had a chance to chat with the Office of Sustainability’s Director, Kelly Wellman, about some of the programs they are working on.  A massive city unto itself, the campus has a huge potential to be a force for sustainability.  A&M’s self assessment highlights a long term plan to improve, but it was great to see it hasn’t been standing still.

Highlights include:
A free biodiesel powered transit bus system
A 65% reduction in per square foot water usage since 1991
And a 33% per square foot energy use reduction since 2002

But the one that struck me the most was the newly launched Aggie Green Fund.  The Green Fund is “a student initiated and student controlled fund that will empower students to take action and bring about novel and creative sustainability initiatives to our campus. It will cost only $3 per semester or $1.50 per summer session, generating approximately $300,000 per academic year for sustainability initiatives.”  Basically it allows a student committee to select and fund student proposed sustainability projects with student approved and student funded money.  This year is the first year of operations, as it was passed in a student vote last year with 57% voting to assess themselves a dedicated sustainability fee to make it happen.

Quite inspiring.  Especially in a world where public funding for state universities has been under pressure.  I hope when I was a student that I’d have been one of the 57% voting yes.

Neal Dikeman is a Texas Aggie, Class of ’98, and a Partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC.  He is one of the owners of the leading ecostore on the web for green and environmental products,