The Alamo Colleges District has many resources for practicing sustainability throughout the district whether you are a student, faculty, or staff member.
Alamo Colleges is committed to becoming a sustainable institution that promotes economic, environmental, and social well-being. The sustainability goals set forth for the district include the following:Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Alamo Colleges signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate commitment in 2009. The district committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, and expects to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020.
Energy Conservation - In accordance with Texas SB 898, the District will continue to reduce total electricity consumption by 5% each year.
Water Conservation - The District commits to a 70% reduction in domestic water use by 2050, and a 25% reduction in domestic water use by 2020.
Indoor Air Quality - The District commits to complete indoor occupancy quality monitoring by 2050 and active reductions in pollutant emissions from landscaping, housekeeping, etc.
Procurement - The District has a zero waste purchasing goal by 2050, and a 40% green purchasing goal by 2025. This green purchase goal applies to products with a sustainable substitute.
LEED - The District commits to registering and certifying at least one LEED Existing Building or New Construction building each year.
Take the Go Green Pledge!
Pledge to Go Green and help the Alamo Colleges reduce its carbon footprint and achieve its sustainability goals by taking some of the following actions. Pledge to take the following actions to make San Antonio a healthier place to live and work, to help protect our environment, and to save money on utilities, both at home and at work. Small actions lead to BIG changes.
Thermal Energy Storage at Alamo Colleges
Alamo Colleges is thinking ahead and optimizing its energy use with its new thermal energy storage tanks.
Check out this informational website prepared by our team of summer interns.
What is the purpose of a thermal storage tank?
A thermal storage tank allows us to produce thermal energy, chilled or hot water, during periods of low electrical demand. By producing thermal energy when electricity demand is low ("off-peak"), Alamo Colleges can reduce its energy use during high demand hours ("peak hours"). This process helps Alamo Colleges balance its energy demand between day and night time, and can save money because sometimes utilities charge a lower rate for electricity used during off-peak hours. It also helps CPS maintain our grid, where electricity is pulled from, by reducing the amount of energy needed when energy use in San Antonio is high.
How it works?
Thermal energy storage is the process of cooling water during off-peak hours then withdrawing it to use in our connected buildings during peak hours. This a daily cycle that happens between day and night time.
During the day, at peak hours, cold water already in the thermal tanks is used to circulate cool air throughout the connected buildings in use. This is called the discharge cycle. While chilled water leaves the tank, the water inside the tank is absorbing sunlight and heating up. This water will need to be cooled again.
At the end of an peak cycle the thermal tank is full warm water that it will send to a chiller to cool before the next peak cycle. This cycle is called off-peak, or the charging cycle, and occurs at night when a building is not in use and no cool air is needed. The chiller will move the cold water back into the thermal storage tank to use before the next peak cycle. As the tanks prepare for the next day one thermal energy storage cycle is complete.
Saving money and protecting the environment
- Demand Response is a CPS Energy strategy to reduce 771 megawatts of energy use by 2020
- Alamo Colleges has participated in demand response since summer 2013
- Alamo Colleges earned $103,000 in 2013, $118,389 in 2014, and $178,756 in 2015 by participating
- Alamo Colleges avoids CO2 emissions by participating; in 2013, this was more than 19,000 lbs!
Why Demand Response?
Hot summers are CPS Energy's highest electricity demand times, or "peak periods". When we power on our A/Cs, more power plants are powered up, too. This is expensive, raising electricity prices for everyone.
If the demand is too high, even expensive energy won't produce enough electricity, leading to brownouts and blackouts. Plus, the natural gas and diesel plants used at this time are high polluters.
Instead of firing up more power plants, CPS contracts Alamo Colleges to reduce electricity use during these periods, and Alamo Colleges is paid what would have gone to peak power plants, via rebates.
Other participants include Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio Water System, Matheson-Trigas, and Supa Doors. Together, we reduce our electricity demand by 1300KW during peak times--the equivalent of taking 650 houses off the grid at once!
What is Demand Response?
CPS Energy's Demand Response season spans from June 1st to September 30th. CPS Energy can call on Alamo Colleges a maximum of 25 times, totaling a maximum of 75 hours, to substantially reduce our energy use for any number of hours between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Alamo Colleges is given a minimum 2-hour advanced notice for a demand response event.
Alamo Colleges begins to reduce the amount of energy it is using by an agreed-upon amount. Our HVAC (air conditioning) systems are throttled down to lower settings (NEVER turned off) to reduce it's energy use.
Starting in 2015, we switch from real-time cooling at our chiller plant, to drawing from our thermal storage tanks which were pre-cooled the night before (for more information on thermal storage).
See the CPS Energy website for more information on demand response in San Antonio.
How Can I Help?
If you notice the room warming, turn off unnecessary appliances (lab computers, unattended lights, overhead projectors, idling copiers/printers), and close the blinds on sunny windows. Keep the outside doors closed to minimize outdoor air infiltration.
All appliances produce heat which can make a difference when our HVAC system is throttled down during an event. Additionally, employees are welcome to use desk fans and to take advantage of our summer casual dress to keep cool.
Recycling at Alamo Colleges
Recycling is an easy way to reduce your waste. At Alamo Colleges we are taking initiative to make sure we make recycling an option across our campuses.
Every year millions of trees are cut down to make paper products and billions of pounds of plastic pollution enter our oceans. When we recycle, we prevent reusable material from ending up in our landfills and oceans. Recycling can help reduce pollution, and save natural resources and energy because it allows us to make new products from old materials! For instance, it takes 95% less energy to create an aluminium can from recycled aluminium than it would with new aluminium.
Frequently Asked Questions about Recycling
How Do I Recycle?
- Put your recyclables in the blue recycling bins located next to the trashcans.
What Can I Recycle in These Bins?
What cannot be recycled in the blue containers?
- Light bulbs, batteries, ceramic dishes, pots & pans, glassware, plastic cups, styrofoam, paper plates & napkins
What should I do with paper containing sensitive information or non-public information (NPI)?
- Alamo Colleges has a strict NPI policy that requires such material to be disposed of accordingly. Any sensitive or papers containing NPI should be shredded and put into the regular trash bin.
Do I have to separate my recyclables?
No, everything can go in the same bin.
What about containers with solid food?
- Recyclables should not have food on them. If a container can not be washed out, continue to put it in the regular trash bin.
Where can I request an additional recycling bin?
- You can direct your question and concerns to your campus hotline.
Where can I learn more about recycling in San Antonio?
- Try logging onto our contracted company's webpage
Northwest Vista and Northeast Lakeview Colleges use recycled water for irrigation, and in their cooling towers.
There are four types of water to know about:
- Domestic water is the filtered and chlorinated water we get in all of our taps at home. This water is a finite resource that is pumped out of the Edward's Aquifer.
- Grey water often goes straight down the drain, but it is safe to reuse, for example, in irrigation and to fill toilet bowls.
- Black water is unsafe for reuse, so it always goes down the drain to be treated for pathogens and bacteria.
- Purple is the industry color label for "treated wastewater effluent", or recycled water. Alamo Colleges receives recycled water piped directly from SAWS (San Antonio Water System). This water goes through extensive filtration and cleaning processes, but nutrients can stay in the water.
As an extra precaution, the water is NOT used for drinking or indoor use, it is used:
- for 100% of irrigation
- for NVC's air conditioning cooling towers
- to fill the NVC lake
- recycled water is a fraction of the cost of domestic water
- its high-phosphate content of recycled water is used for fertilizing while irrigating
- using recycled water reduces the amount of water we need to pump out of the Edward's Aquifer
- recycled water use takes advantage of an existing resource that would have otherwise been discharged down river
Going Solar at Alamo Colleges!
Solar power is a promising renewable energy source in San Antonio. It can help us power our buildings and keep our lights on, while reducing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels like coal.
How does it work?
The Sun emits light in the form of photons. These photons travel at the speed of light to reach Earth, which takes about 8 minutes. Upon arrival, the photons are absorbed by solar cell panels made of semiconductor materials that are placed in areas that receive a significant amount of sunlight, like our rooftops. The technology used in these panels allow us to harness the Sun's energy and make it usable. When the photons hit the panels, their cells free energetic electrons, creating a flow of energy, or electricity. This electricity then travels through out electric grid to our buildings and homes.
3 Reasons Alamo Colleges is going solar:
- We're being responsible!
- It is a clean alternative to other fuels; that does not generate harmful emissions like fossil fuels that negatively impact our atmosphere.
- The panels operate quietly without disrupting the surrounding natural and built environment.
- We're being smart!
- The costs of solar has come down substantially within the few years, and in San Antonio there is plenty of free sunshine to use.
- Once the panels are installed they require little maintenance.
- We're being a leader!
- Solar installations are on the rise and the way of the future. Alamo Colleges strives to be a leader and is offering it's students and community an opportunity to learn about solar.
The William R. Sinkin Eco Centro is a community outreach center for environmental substainability operated by San Antonio College and seed funded by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Hispanic Serving Institutions Assisting Communities grant. The building was completed in early 2014 and hosted its grand opening on Earth Day the same year. It is located at 1802 North Main Avenue, at the corner of Main Ave. and E. Locust.
The LEED-certified, 3,000+ square foot facility serves as an example of sustainable building with a solar-photovoltaic system connected to 135 roof-mounted solar panels, a 2,700-gallon water catchment tank and five 40-gallon tanks, water-wise landscaping, four electric vehicle charging stations, a B-Cycle station, and large composting and gardening areas.
To cultivate the understanding, progress and practice of sustainability
Eco Centro strives to positively address environmental challenges by providing the information needed to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.
Through education, outreach, service and research, Eco Centro advocates for the adoption of practical sustainable practices.
Our objective is to stimulate greater community, business and household self-sufficiency while supporting entities that further the overarching cause of environmental preservation through collaborative initiatives and educational programming.
What We Do
The William R. Sinkin Eco Centro serves as a demonstration center for organic gardening, composting, sustainable building, low impact development, water conservation, native landscaping, healthy living, developing community partnerships and more. The center provides meeting space for several local organizations and hosts community based and environmentally related events. By partnering with our local community, other environmental organizations, private industry, governmental agencies, and sustainability experts, the William R. Sinkin Eco Centro furthers its goals of education and advocacy on a local level and beyond.
Why We Do What We Do
Rapid population growth, economic expansion, and excessive consumption of our natural resources necessitates a collective solution to the depletion of those resources most basic for survival and well-being. Sustainability has emerged as that solution and is of the utmost importance in making sure we have enough water, materials, and resources to lead productive, healthy, and comfortable lives. Each of us must do our part to conserve the natural environment on which we all depend.
Questions/Comments, Volunteer and Student Opportunities
Tours and Meeting Room Rentals
Nutrition Support/Discussion Group
Alamo Sierra Club General Meeting
Food Policy Council of San Antonio
The Chancellor signed a pledge in February 2016 to make the college district carbon-neutral by 2050. One of the ways we'll accomplish this goal is by making sustainability and resilience a part of all curriculum in the Alamo Colleges. The Sustainability Council will document how many faculty at each college are incorporating sustainability into their classes through the Greening the Curriculum form.
Please fill out the Greening the Curriculum form and return to your college's Sustainability Council member. Council members for each campus may be found here.
Alternative Transportation at Alamo Colleges
Commuting among Alamo Colleges' students, staff, and faculty emitted 42,802 metric TONS of CO2 emissions in the 2014-2015 school year alone. This amounted to 48% of the total green house gases emitted in the entire district. Alamo Colleges is a firm advocate in alternative transportation, and is actively searching for new ways to decrease the commuting emissions we send to the atmosphere on a daily basis. Check out our transportation pages for resources on biking, walking, and busing to campus. And look out for carpooling information soon!
VIA Bus Information
Did you know?
All Alamo Colleges' academic students can ride the VIA bus for FREE!
How does it work?
Your Alamo Colleges District ID is your U-Pass to ride on all VIA mainline bus routes.
Just show your student or employee ID to the bus operator when boarding. No stickers needed!
I have a car, why would I want to ride the bus?
Since September 1st, 2015, all VIA buses have free, 4G internet for passengers.
This means you have time to catch up on homework, or check your facebook feed, while in transit.
San Antonio's "hands-free" law: you can text your friends back while your on your way, without breaking the law, or risking an accident.
Students who use the bus pay $0 for transportation to and from school, while car commuters pay $240-600 per semester, just in gas.
Check out the below maps to see everything that is within walking and biking distance of San Antonio College, St. Philip's College and Palo Alto College. Thank you to the Office of Environmental Policy of the CIty of San Antonio for creating these maps.
San Antonio College
St. Philip's College
Palo Alto College