Is there enough green to ‘go green’?

Alyssa Gonzales

Fabian De Soto, The Paisano
Fabian De Soto, The Paisano

In an effort to promote green initiatives and campus sustainability, UTSA has hired Dr. Keith Muhlestein as the new Director of Sustainability. As the face of green efforts on campus, working closely with students, President Ricardo Romo and the UTSA Sustainability Counsel to complete green initiatives.

Muhlestein will be returning to UTSA for a fourth time. He earned his undergraduate degree, his masters in environmental science and his Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering from UTSA.

Considering his ties to UTSA, Muhlestein was excited about the opportunities to improve his home campus.

“There has not been a job like this before, because UTSA has just created the Office of Sustainability. So it is my job to create the job and define what it means for UTSA to follow a sustainable path,” Muhlestein said.

“It takes a while to get a new office off the ground, but it’s happening. Step by step we will make it go; bit by bit the wheels are turning.”

Muhlestein maintains a close relationship with the UTSA Green Fund. The Green Fund is a student-led organization funded through the “green fee,” a five-dollar tack on tuition, which has funded the new Director of Sustainability position as well as many other green efforts on campus.

“Keith, being the new Director of Sustainability, is going to bring synergy among university departments and student groups. He is looking at ways to make UTSA better, by working with Business Auxiliary Services and finding ways that are not only financially sustainable but environmentally,” Chair of the Green Fund Committee Ashley Pollock said. “The next big step is determining what will happen with the Green Fund once the funds are depleted.”

The “green fee” was implemented in 2010 and only written into UTSA tuition for five years. As of Spring 2016, UTSA students were no longer charged a “green fee.” Both the Office of Sustainability and the Green Fund will have to fundraise and solicit private donors to continue their efforts.

“Personally, it bothers me that a $5 fee for sustainability is seen as less necessary than a $120 recreation center fee (per semester), but unfortunately there is not much that can be done at this point,” Vice Chair of the Green Fund Committee Christopher Adkison said.

Photo of Dr. Muhlestein courtesy of UTSA
Photo of Dr. Muhlestein courtesy of UTSA

“However, part of the purpose of funding the Director of Sustainability was for (Muhlestein) to help us look into the possible fundraising opportunities at UTSA, such as receiving donations/sponsors from companies in San Antonio that might already support UTSA.”

In three years, Muhlestein will have to turn other sources of funding; however, he and Pollock are discussing the possible revenue generating options for both the Office of Sustainability and the Green Fund.

“What I really want is momentum, someone to get behind a project. Take littering for example. They go out to pick up trash around campus and drag their three best friends out with them, and then they’re going to get mad about trash and all of a sudden you have a movement on your hands,” Muhlestein said.