Seven years ago, Austin College hosted our first GreenServe; an event created and proposed by a student in ENVS 135 (Introduction to Environmental Studies). This campus-wide opportunity attracts nearly 200 volunteers to community service projects focused on environmental responsibility, sustainability, and raising awareness for Thinking Green.
The event is co-sponsored, organized and implemented by two student led groups: Austin College Thinking Green (or Think) and the Service Station. By tradition, service projects last for three hours on a Saturday morning that falls on or near to Earth Day. In contrast to the three hours spent at each site, there are several weeks and countless hours that go into the planning of GreenServe in hopes that students will be provided with a wide range of opportunities from organizations that will inspire or establish a greater connection and meaning to long term environmental responsibility.
During the two weeks before GreenServe students, faculty, and staff, sign up for a project to which they would like to contribute. Some examples include:
Site maintenance and restoration work at Sneed Prairie
Promoting environmental awareness at Texoma Earth Day Festival
Native plantings on campus
Maintaining the Sherman Community Garden
Environmental Education to students in the RooBound program
Habitat clean up at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
This year, our 7th annual GreenServe, there was a special focus given to a site on our own Austin College campus. Over 80 GreenServe volunteers planted hundreds of native Texas flowering plants and grasses around the IDEA Center to support pollinators and encourage the adoption of native habitat restoration and education.
The plants were purchased with the Student Sustainability Fund. As a result of a student referendum, five dollars of each student’s activities goes to the Student Sustainability Fund, whose expenditures are chosen by a student committee.
Next year’s GreenServe will be on Earth Day – April 22, 2017.
In 2013 the Austin College campus eagerly opened our new science building, the IDEA Center.
The 103,000 square foot building includes contemporary classrooms and multi-purpose laboratories that support our experiential science curricula. In addition to 32 laboratories, 40 offices, 16 lecture rooms, and a 108-seat auditorium, the Center includes the Adams Observatory that houses a 24-inch telescope and high-resolution camera. The IDEA Center houses the biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics, and physics programs.
On top of the building’s ability to enhance and support the teachings of our faculty, it has also been honored as the first facility in Grayson County. The LEED green building certification system (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), managed by the The U.S. Green Building Council awarded the building LEED® Gold certification as a result of its many green design features.
Some green aspects of the IDEA Center:
Responsibly Harvested Materials: 90% of the building’s wood was certified by the Forest Steward Ship Council. This system promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.
Living Lab: The area around the Center is planted with native Texas grasses and wildflowers. The plants (over 180 species) also reduce water usage by over 50% and support local pollinators. Recently, Austin College volunteers planted hundreds of new plants around the building during GreenServe 2016.
Natural Lighting: Classrooms, offices, receive natural light. This provides a comfortable work environment and reduces the need for electric lights.
Cool Roof: Light colored roofing (as well as paving) was used to reduce the heat island effect.
Water Collection: A 15,000 gallon underground tank collects condensate from the air conditioning system and rain water from the roof. This reduces stormwater runoff and the need for city water for irrigation.
Regulated Air Flow: There is precise monitoring and control of indoor air quality and exchange rates. Over 30 fans power the building’s air flow which adjust speed based on air pressure as activity in the building fluctuates. The system closely monitors humidity, keeping it always between 50-60%. All air from laboratories is 100% exhausted so that none makes its way into the main building.
Construction Waste: 83% of construction waste was diverted from landfills.
Regional materials: 44% of the materials were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project. For example, the building uses stone from Austin, TX and crushed recycled concrete from Lewisville, TX.