Dallas-Fort Worth universities find paths to sustainability

SMU's sustainability committee co-chair talks about how the university looks for ways to educate each class of incoming students on the benefits of sustainability.

Meghna Tare grew up in Nagpur, India, where the local university, Nagpur University, was one of the first schools in India to offer environmental science. “It was a city that was very environmentally conscious,” said Tare, whose hometown was also the site of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute. Ten years ago, her progressive alma mater led her to choose a green career. Today, she’s pioneering a new role found on campuses across the country teaching the next generation of students to “think green” as the University of Texas at Arlington’s first sustainability director.

Since being hired in 2010, Tare has implemented a variety of eco-friendly programs, including three that reduce cars on campus. A car-sharing program allows students to rent a gas-efficient car for $8 per hour, while a ride-sharing program promotes carpooling. For those who’d rather peddle, students can rent a bike for $30 per semester. Other initiatives include installing an electric car charging station and water bottle filling kiosks. The university is also working to expand green space, reduce energy use, and increase recycling.

The changes are part of a growing national trend of colleges becoming more sustainable....

Kim Cobb is the co-chair for SMU’s Sustainability Committee, formed in 2007, that serves as advocate for eco-friendly practices on campus. Cobb, who has been an environmental advocate since her college days in the 1970s, wanted to help influence the younger generation. Although she admits it becomes easier every year.

“As each new class arrives, they are increasingly looking for ways to behave in a sustainable way.” The committee has increased recycling “dramatically” by adding brightly colored recycling bins next to trash cans around campus. Meanwhile, the cafeteria’s trayless dining system saves on dish washing while reducing food waste, because without trays students are less likely to grab more food then they can eat.

The campus also hosts an Earth Day celebration called Barefoot on the Boulevard. “Each year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Cobb. Other changes include implementing grey water irrigation, constructing LEED-certified buildings and installing a solar panel array, which generates energy and serves as a teaching tool.