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GSB Football Preview, Part I: Lauren Lichterman, Helping to Green Texas Athletics

By Lew Blaustein, GreenSportsBlog

Lauren Lichterman, operations and sustainability consultant at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

Lauren Lichterman, operations and sustainability consultant at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

With the American football in full kickoff mode, GreenSportsBlog is taking a look at two teams at different points on the “Green Gridiron” spectrum. Today, we talk with Lauren Lichterman who is helping to jumpstart the greening of The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Later this week, GSB will turn to the greening of Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, already a sustainability leader.  

GreenSportsBlog: Lauren, when I think of Green-Sports leaders in college sports, my mind goes to the Pac-12 — all 12 schools plus the conference itself are members of the Green Sports Alliance — and Big Ten schools like MichiganMinnesota and Ohio State, which all have been working towards hosting Zero-Waste football games. The Big 12, which basically spans Texas, the Plains states with West Virginia sprinkled in? Not so much, at least not yet. So I’m really glad to talk with you about the greening of The University of Texas. Did you go to Texas? And were you always an environmentalist?

Lauren Lichterman: I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Not a very green area, I’ll admit. But we always recycled. So I was an environmentalist. And I loved sports.  So when I did end up going to UT…

GSB: …Hook ’em Horns!

Lauren: Hook ’em Horns! I played intramural basketball, soccer, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee.

GSB: You were BUSY!!!

Lauren: Oh yeah! I thought I would be an international business major, but I started taking sports management courses and loved them. I always saw sports as a powerful forum for teamwork, equality and more.

GSB: So did you switch to sports management?

Lauren: I did. And I worked in the Athletics Department while I was in school.

GSB: What did you do for them?

Lauren: Anything they needed. After graduation, a position opened up in the facilities and operations department. Since planning, operations, and logistics had become my passion I jumped at the chance. In fact, I got the job offer on graduation day so my timing was quite lucky.

GSB: What was your role at the start?

Lauren: I wore a lot of hats. I handled customer service, fan surveys, ran information tables at football, baseball, volleyball and softball games. It wasn’t glamorous but I loved it!

GSB: How great is that? How and when did sustainability enter the mix?

Lauren: In 2010, which was my first year working full-time, the Office of Sustainability came to Athletics, saying they’d like to start a tailgate recycling program. The Athletic Director at the time, DeLoss Dodds, said “OK, sounds great. What do you need?” I became the main point of contact on the Athletics side for supplies and logistics. Sustainability brought two or three full-time people to the effort. We ended up relying on a lot of student volunteers, which was great.

Read the full article here.

CSU Jumps to No. 4 on Sierra Magazine’s Cool Schools Green Ranking

By , Colorado State University

CSU’s Eco Leaders at a recent retreat at the Mountain Campus.

CSU’s Eco Leaders at a recent retreat at the Mountain Campus.

Colorado State University has gone from 11th place to fourth place on this year’s “Cool Schools” ranking from the Sierra Club’s official magazine, Sierra.

And for the second year in a row, CSU has been ranked first for public engagement in the 2018 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

“As a land-grant institution, we take our role in engaging students and the public in sustainability research and initiatives very seriously,” said Tonie Miyamoto, co-chair of the President’s Sustainability Commission. “The opportunity to provide hands-on learning opportunities and access to living labs on campus is very inspiring and helps us with outreach in our local community and across the state.”

In its 12th annual survey, Sierra received submissions from a record-breaking 269 schools in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

“We stay inspired by the creative and innovative ways colleges and universities across North America are working to tackle the climate crisis and move toward a sustainable future,” said Jason Mark, Sierra magazine’s editor in chief. “Each year, submissions to Sierra’s Cool Schools rankings shoot up — showing youth are increasingly engaged in driving change at a local level to circumvent our lagging federal leaders.”

Methodology changes

Sierra made some changes to its methodology this year that included aligning it more with the scoring system used by AASHE. That’s the organization that gave CSU the first-ever Platinum rating in its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS, in 2015 – and repeated the honor in 2017.

According to Mark, the changes to the 2018 rankings methodology were made to limit the chance for errors in data input, increase alignment with AASHE’s existing scoring system, improve the integrity of the data used, and boost transparency of the entire ranking process.

“In 2018, we based our rankings on institutions’ existing STARS scores,” he said. “We then processed the STARS data through a custom-built formula that ranked the schools according to our own weighting criteria, which were based on Sierra Club priorities. As in past years, we also had a supplemental question about fossil-fuel investments.”

Read the full article here.

That’s Not Just Grass. That’s the Best Turf in Texas.

By Kristin Phillips, UT News

Photo courtesy of Office of Sustainability.

Photo courtesy of Office of Sustainability.

The landscaping of The University of Texas at Austin’s main campus is now nearly 100 percent organic. This makes the 431 acres the largest example of organic landscaping in the Texas capital.

UT’s switch to organic landscaping began in 2009 when landscapers Justin Hayes and Mike Wallick began experimenting with a section of turf on University Avenue between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Littlefield Fountain. After stopping the application of chemicals to fertilize and control weeds, the landscape crew aerated the soil and applied organic compost. The grass thrived, and its need for water decreased 50 percent.

This plot was named “Best Turf in Texas” by the Texas Turfgrass Association in 2012 — the first time that organically managed turf was awarded this honor — and organic landscaping on campus sprang to life.

After the success of the test plot, additional parts of the campus landscape were brought under organic management, starting with areas like the Turtle Pond, the flag poles near the Main Building, and the South Mall. The change to the South Mall had a larger impact: Before organic compost, this heavily used area received new turf each year after the spring commencement ceremonies, costing about $40,000. But now that organic compost and other amendments have improved soil health, the landscaping team has not needed to install new turf in this area for six years.

“We made campus a healthier ecosystem by improving our soils and using native plants, making us better stewards of a vital part of campus that we are striving to rejuvenate: Waller Creek,” says Jim Carse, manager of Landscape Services. “We are also saving money because when you build healthier soils that can retain water, you reduce the need for irrigation.”

Read full article here.

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