University Ramps up Sustainability Program


Photo Courtesy/Alan Levine via Flickr

Christian Aleman, News Editor

The Office of Residential Living and Learning at Texas A&M University – Commerce has recently become more involved with sustainability around the university and the Commerce community.

Recent involvement has ranged from updated recycling amenities, hands-on and educational programs, and attending sustainability conferences.

“We bought new containers in the halls for res-life so they look a lot prettier, they’re larger, we have been so successful with students on campus recycling in the halls that we had to get bigger containers, 50 gallon [ones] actually,” Residential Living and Learning hall Operations Associate Director Kathy McGrath said.

The bins that were replaced were put around campus and Republic Services, Inc., a domestic waste service provider, provided the university bins that have been placed around the Sam Rayburn Student Center.

“We hooked up with Republic Services that does our recycling and they donated some cardboard boxes, recycling containers, that we put over in the Sam Rayburn Student Center,” McGrath said.

McGrath also said that she had been trying to get a community garden started in the past. The university recently purchased land for the project to be carried out.

“We have now purchased the property behind First United Methodist Church and we have a vegetable garden; a community garden,” McGrath said. “I’ve been wanting to get something like that on campus and so they [the university] purchased that land and we’re going to keep that going. They’re starting that now; there is someone who is tilling it up. You purchase a lot that you are saying you’re going to take care of yourself.”

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, the office plans on having a festival in conjunction with other departments around campus.

“We have several departments on campus that are working with us donating things” McGrath said. “We’re going to have plenty of games, prizes, giveaways, food, and educational [booths]. We’re going to make a sculpture hopefully. We’re working with the art department to take recycling and do a sculpture.”

In the past, the office has hosted a conference over environmental friendliness where other universities have attended.

“We had a TRACKS summit March 5-7,” McGrath said. “Several universities and colleges from across Texas came to Texas Regional Affiliation for Campus Sustainability. We attend that every year, and they asked us to host it. During the event, we did a butterfly garden and… this is for butterflies that are crossing. This is a stop for them to have food, drink and move on. It’s around the lion at the Sam Rayburn Student Center.”

Over Christmas break Prairie Crossing was switching out furniture and the sofas that were taken out were donated to Commerce ISD and other organizations in neighboring areas instead of all being thrown away.

“They used the couches that we donated for the students, so they kind of add a homey feel to their classrooms,” Hall Operations Graduate Assistant Ashley Mclaurin said.

The office has these programs in hopes of educating students on the importance of sustainability that they can take with them even after they graduate and so that the university can save money while these practices are put into place.

“I believe that in a university, though we’re an academic university, we also have a responsibility to teach life skills and so when students leave here, the more that they know about how they can save whenever they get out and get their apartment and begin living, or buy their house,” McGrath said. “What we’re doing is we’re living for today but we’re preserving for tomorrow as well and I think that’s very important that we make sure that the less we put in the landfills, the better off we’re going to be.”