Written by Amber Orr, ACC Sustainability manager
At Austin Community College District (ACC), we celebrate Earth Week 2023 with events from April 17 through Earth Day on April 22. (Earth Week Calendar)
You can start the celebration early by making environmental stewardship part of your daily life. Here are our top tips for including sustainability at home and on campus year-round.
- Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Compost… then Landfill
The current state of recycling is confusing. Recycling is often thought of as the first solution to deal with waste. However, it’s one of the last. To truly make an impact toward reducing waste, it is much easier to:
Rethink – Consider your daily choices and behaviors to identify ways to reduce overall consumption.
Reduce – Refuse single-use items from the start and replace them with options that you can reuse over and over again.
Reuse – Invest in items you can use repeatedly (Even better, use what you already own before you purchase new); many reusable options can minimize the need to recycle.
Recycle/Compost – When possible, choose to compost to convert your waste into usable organic material. If you are left with recyclable materials, research and understand what your local recycling programs accept.
Landfill – If you’ve taken the steps above, you should see that you have way less than you need to throw away, and remember, there is no such thing as “away.” Items sent to a landfill can stay there anywhere from 40 years to 1 million years.
- Be “Energy Smart” Around the Home and in the Office
You can reduce your energy consumption around your home and at school or work in many ways to help reduce environmental impacts and your overall utility costs!
- Use natural light when possible and change your existing light bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs.
- Turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use. Lighting accounts for about 12% of a typical residential utility bill.
- Wash your clothes in cold water if possible (Heating the water can account for up to 80% of the energy used during washing and isn’t proven to clean your clothes any better).
- During warmer months, cover windows on the sunny side of your home to help keep your home cooler and reduce the work for your AC unit. Open shades during cooler months to let the sun warm your home.
- Don’t peek in the oven while baking! Every time you peek, the temperature can drop 25 degrees, making your oven use more energy to increase the temperature. Turn off the oven a few minutes before cooking time runs out. Your food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity.
- Every Drop Counts: Reduce Your Use
Droughts, flooding, and water pollution are increasing, and now more than ever, protecting our precious water resources is of the utmost importance. Check out easy ways to help conserve and protect water at home and school:
- Turn off the water when you are not using it! (When brushing your teeth, lathering soap into your hands, scrubbing dishes, etc.)
- Replace old fixtures and appliances with more efficient ones, and fix any leaks as soon as you notice them.
- Take showers instead of baths; your shower should last less than 5 minutes.
- When you use your dishwasher or laundry machine, wait until you can do a full load.
- If you need to run your faucet, catch the water to reuse elsewhere (like watering plants or in a pet bowl).
- Transportation: Think Green
Here are a few programs ACC offers to support public transportation resources and promote thinking green about your commute.
Electric Vehicle Charging: There are Charging Stations at each campus, and they’re open for community use. ACC students and employees can get a pass that allows access to charging for 6 months for only $25!
When making personal decisions about methods of transportation, consider some of the following:
- Take public transportation or use the many great bike routes in the metro area
- Carpool or minimize your commute
- Choose your next vehicle from the Greener Car list
- Get Involved: Learn More About the ACC Green Teams and Energy and Sustainability Office Programs
ACC’s Energy and Sustainability Office offers a variety of events and programs at ACC. Check out a few highlights below and watch for opportunities throughout the year.
Green Team: Join your campus Green Team to volunteer at Zero Waste events, stay up-to-date on sustainability initiatives, and participate in sustainability projects and activities at your campus.
Eco Bag Contest: Each year, the ACC community votes to decide the winning design available for purchase on a reusable tote bag for one year.
Eco Conference Grants: ACC’s Office of Energy and Sustainability funds a number of student, staff, and faculty registrations and associated travel to several sustainability conferences each year (typically one in the spring and one in the fall).
This ACC Experts piece is brought to you by ACC’s Sustainability program. ACC remains committed to sustainability. The ACC Rio Grande Campus received LEED Platinum rating and was named the 2022 Austin Green Awards Project of the Year. Three ACC Campuses achieved LEED Gold certification, including Highland Phase 1, Highland Phase 2, and San Gabriel. In addition, three other ACC campuses — Round Rock, Hays, and Elgin — are LEED-Silver Certified.
For more information about the office and ACC’s environmental efforts, visit austincc.edu/sustainability.