Campus Goes Greener With First Sustainability Chief

In a bid to improve utility efficiency and reduce the campus’ carbon footprint, UT Dallas has hired its first energy conservation and sustainability manager.

Donna Riha is also charged with accelerating the University’s recycling efforts, shrinking waste and coordinating environmentally sound purchasing plans.

Donna Riha

Donna Riha

“We are committed to having a university where energy conservation and sustainability are an integral part of the way we do business,” said Dr. Calvin Jamison, vice president of Business Affairs. “Ms. Riha’s appointment is a very strong step toward fulfilling that commitment.”

Riha holds a degree in industrial technology from Texas A&M University.  Her career includes more than 20 years’ working for TXU Energy.

A UT Dallas sustainability policy currently under review would commit the University to using resources “in a manner that takes into consideration environmental, social and economic impacts.”

Riha hopes to help the University accomplish its goals by forging alliances among students, faculty and staff members, and energy vendors.

Recycle bins

UT Dallas has distributed recycling bins across campus to make it easy for students, staffers and faculty members to reduce waste.

“We are getting the Dining Hall to recycle its cardboard products, which comes to about 500 boxes a day. We estimate this will produce 4 tons of cardboard per month from the Dining Hall alone,” Riha said.  “Keith Foreman [director of Dining Services and representative for Chartwells] and Matt Grief [assistant vice president of Student Affairs] are instrumental in achieving this for the University,” she said.

UT Dallas already has introduced a series of green initiatives on campus:

  • Solar panels power emergency call boxes, the outdoor mass-notification system and pedestrian beacons.
  • Landscape crews produce all seasonal color from seed in the greenhouse and place the flowers in beds and planters all over campus.
  • Energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LED) are being used for  some outdoor electronic signs. “We are studying the feasibility of replacing current parking lot lighting with LEDs,” Riha added.
  • The University is participating in Recyclemania, an annual college recycling contest, to help spread awareness of the need to reduce waste. UT Dallas has competed in the last three years, improving its showing each year and culminating in 2009’s 6th place finish nationally in the paper category.
  • The Student Services Building, set for completion this summer, is expected to be the first LEED platinum-certified building in the UT System.

“It is important to communicate these initiatives as well as the University’s significant sustainability accomplishments to our campus community. Donna Riha is well qualified by her prior experiences and has the prerequisite level of enthusiasm to make this happen,” said Rick Dempsey, associate vice president for Facilities Management.

“These projects demonstrate the University’s desire to promote sustainability,” Riha said. “I want my office to be a clearinghouse for all things green at UT Dallas.”

Talking Trash: Students Competein Annual Recycling Rivalry

As of March 17, UT Dallas was in fourth place nationally in one category and second statewide in another in the annual Recyclemania competition. 

As UT Dallas enters the home stretch, Alison Beatty, president and founder of the student sustainability group Sustenants, plans to pit one student apartment building against another for a weekend recycling  showdown.

The University kicked off its Recyclemania drive in February with a drum circle hosted by members of Onomatopoeia, Students for Environmental Awareness, and Sustenants. An individual recycling program in apartment buildings 61 through 63 has yielded more than 200 pounds of recycled material.

A recycling-bin painting party at the Residence Hall was canceled due to snow, but Beatty said she expects a solid turnout for The Great Recycle Race, set for March 26 in the Phase 8 Clubhouse and in the new Residence Hall.

Freshmen will compete for points by recycling as much as possible as part of the University's final push before Recyclemania ends this weekend.


Accepted for Recycling

Paper Products

Colored paper Newspapers Envelopes, with or without windows Books Paper bags Magazines Telephone books Cardstock Folders

Sticky notes Writing paper Copy paper Notebook paper Shredded paper Corrugated cardboard Boxes Pizza boxes (food removed)


Soda, water cans, beer cans, sports drink cans Aluminum foil, trays, pans and bakeware

Plastic Bottles

If there’s a 1 or a 2 inside the recycling symbol on the bottom of the container, it can be recycled

Not Accepted

Waxed cups Waxy orange juice boxes/milk cartons Laminated paper Paper towels Toilet paper Greasy paper Rubber bands

Glass Packing peanuts Squishy foam Plastic bubble wrap Electronics Furniture or scrap wood Food service organics

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].