The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) has won the National Excellence in Sustainability award from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) for the second time since 2018.
The award recognizes a campus innovation, process or program that advances environmental sustainability in higher education.
“It’s kind of part of the culture at UTA, engaging with not just the campus community but also the faculty and staff to promote a sustainable campus,” Chief Sustainability Officer Meghna Tare said.
The sustainability program at UTA has been in place for approximately 10 years, according to Tare, and covers avenues including recycling, transportation, waste management, composting, education and outreach.
Tare said she believes the award highlights the university’s commitments to sustainability on campus and beyond the classroom.
“We are in the business of education and sometimes educating students about the impact of their action goes a long way, not just on campus, but at home,” she said. “It’s kind of a requirement, it’s like the basic behavior we need for everybody to adopt.”
UTA’s award submission, titled “Fighting food insecurity and reducing food waste,” highlighted various programs at UTA, including the campus’ composting initiative.
“UTA is unique in that we have an on-site composting program, where we collect the food waste from our dining services, cafeteria and take it to our compost site,” Tare said, adding that the site is also used as “a hands-on learning space.”
Additionally, the submission mentioned the campus’ engagement with the Food Recovery Network, a nonprofit that fights food waste by recovering leftover food on campuses and donating it to those in need. The UTA chapter of the Food Recovery Network was started in 2020 and has recovered over 3,000 pounds of food so far, Tare said.
The submission noted UTA’s participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge partners commit to a minimum of a 5% increase in one of three food diversion categories—prevention, donation or composting. In 2014 and 2018, UTA received the EPA’s award for leadership in reducing food waste.
UTA also operates a food pantry, a back-of-house waste logging program and a feature on the dining program’s website and app that connects students with unused food leftover from catering events.
The award is a testimony to the university’s commitment to sustainability, Tare said: “It kind of energizes and inspires within the campus community to know that we stand out on the international stage and got recognition for our efforts.”