Orange really is the new green.
UT was presented with the 2017 Green Power Leadership for Excellence in Green Power Use award by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month.
The award was presented to Preston Jacobsen, UT's sustainability manager, at the 2017 Renewable Energy Markets Conference, held Oct. 22 through Oct. 24.
The EPA recognized UT based on its “leading actions ... that significantly advance the development of green power sources.”
Carolyn Brown, sustainability outreach coordinator, said the award was unique among those the university has received.
“It’s the biggest environmental award we’ve ever won at UT. We’re the only school in the Southeast to win it, and we’re one of the only schools in general to win it,” Brown said. “It makes us stand out in the environmental field.”
The Office of Sustainability opened its doors in 2007 after more than 10 years of student and faculty work which started in 1993.
UT's Student Government Association (SGA) instituted a Green Fee for renewable energy in 2005; following the fee, UT students petitioned for the opening of the sustainability office.
The Make Orange Green campaign launched in 2008, and Jacobsen said it became “the marketing arm of the Office of Sustainability” that was used to create and motivate “cultural awareness of sustainability on campus” through events like the yearly Earth Day celebration and informative student outreach.
Jacobsen said that many factions of UT have been instrumental in helping the Office of Sustainability to make orange greener.
"It is wonderful to be within the Facilities Services (building). The stormwater coordinator is right there. If I need to get a bike rack put in, I just talk to the landscape architect,” Jacobsen said. “We are in the mix with the group of people who actually do the physical work. There are also a lot of partners such as Student Life, housing, parking, athletics — those are just to name a few.”
Jacobsen said that UT students should be proud of the award, too, because "it very much is their dollars” that fund UT’s annual Green Fee.
"Know that your student dollars are going toward green energy purchasing. We're number one in the nation for (green energy purchasing), and we were just recognized for that,” Jacobsen said. “There's a lot of pride in that statement alone.”
However, keeping UT’s campus sustainable is an effort that must be ongoing, with a perennial goal of improvement.
“When it comes to students, you all interact the most with our campus, so your behaviors, in particular, are something that you can help us with,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen asked students to remain conscious of campus and treat it with respect.
“Also, just being better stewards of your environment. If you care about this campus, treat this campus like you would your own property,” Jacobsen said. “Take pride in the work that has already been done but know that we could do better.”