When the Office of Sustainability opened its doors at Texas A&M University in 2008, it received an enthusiastic welcome from students. But as Kelly Wellman ’95, Texas A&M’s director of sustainability, recalls, students reflexively equated “sustainability” with familiar environmental efforts such as recycling.
Twelve years later, Wellman notes that as student support for the office and its many campus partners has escalated, so has awareness of the plethora of areas that fall under the wide umbrella of sustainability.
“The students’ breadth of understanding of sustainability has grown immensely,” she said. “Yes, recycling is a sustainable practice. But sustainability also has to do with climate interruption, water resources and even social equity.”
Grasping a concept as vast as sustainability can be a formidable task. Sustainability at Texas A&M involves using an earth-friendly lens when making decisions that impact the campus, teaching and researching sustainable practices across academic disciplines, and developing graduates who will be good stewards of the earth long after they leave the university.
The success of some of these broad goals are easier to measure than others. The Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education uses a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) to score institutions. Categories considered include academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.
In the 2019 STARS report, Texas A&M not only earned its fourth Gold rating, but also ranked first in the SEC and sixth among 15 peer Vision 2020 institutions in overall findings.
“At an institution where we’re teaching students to go out and solve global challenges,” Wellman said, “we’ve got to practice what we preach.”
Wellman is the first to say that along with campus initiatives, it’s the Office of Sustainability’s “amazing student partners” who make sustainability work at Texas A&M. Below are but a few of Texas A&M’s sustainability contributors:Support TAMU Sustainability