Sustainability

In our sustainability website, you can find resources for practicing sustainability throughout the district whether you are a student, faculty, or staff member.

 

Our Goals

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.

All information gathered will be used solely for this pledge initiative. Your information will not be shared with any other party. You can expect only occasional emails related to the Pledge. This information will also help monitor meeting our goal of 1,000 pledges and provide statistical data to share with the campuses.

Take The Pledge

   

District Initiatives

Thermal Storage

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.

Demand Response

Demand Response

Saving money and protecting the environment

 

QuickFacts:

  • 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, click here).

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.

Note: Buildings should never become unreasonably hot or stuffy. If this happens in your study or work area, please notify facilities as soon as possible.

 

Recycling On Campus

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?

Paper

  • Compressed cardboard & pizza boxes
  • Cereal/food boxes
  • Milk/juice cartons
  • Magazines/books
  • Office/Newspaper

Plastics

  • Rigid plastics
  • Bottles/jugs with lids
  • Plastics #'s 1-7
  • Wide-mouth containers

Glass/Metal

  • Aerosol cans
  • Food/drink cans
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum trays

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 seperate 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?

Recycled Water

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
See the SAWS website for more information on how the recycled water process works!
Benefits:  
  • 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
Solar Energy

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:  

  1. 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.   
     
  2. 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. 
  1. 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. 
Sinkin Eco Centro

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.

Our Mission

 To cultivate the understanding, progress and practice of sustainability

Our Goal

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.

 

Contact Information

Questions/Comments, Volunteer and Student Opportunities
Phone: 210-486-0417
Email: sac-ecocentro@alamo.edu

Tours and Meeting Room Rentals
Phone: 210-486-1874
Email: jcornelius19@alamo.edu

Hours
Monday, Friday – by appointment
Tuesday through Thursday - 10-6
1st Saturday: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. 
* Please check our events for additional hours and activities

Events

Monthly Meetings

Nutrition Support/Discussion Group
Every first Thursday, 10-11:30 am
For info call Loretta, 210-492-4620

Alamo Sierra Club General Meeting
Every third Tuesday, 6:30-8 pm
(6 pm social time
www.sierraclub.org/texas/alamo

Food Policy Council of San Antonio
Every third Wednesday, 12 pm -1 pm
www.foodpolicysa.org

Greening the Curriculum

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.

Resources

  • Name Award Amount Requirements
    Brower Youth Awards $3,000 cash prize, film about your environmental work, week-long trip to San Francisco age 13-22, application
    Eckenfelder Scholarship $5,000 scholarship U.S. citizen or permanent resident, full-time student enrolled in junior or senior year at accredited college/university, declared major in Civil, Chemical, or Environmental Engineering, or environmental sciences, 3.0 GPA
    Annie's Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship     $10,000 or $2,500 undergraduate or graduate student pursuing studies in sustainable and organic agriculture
    National Garden Clubs Scholarship $3,500 undergraduate sophomore, junior, or senior, pursuing career related to gardening, landscape design, environmental issues, floral design, or horticulture 
    Udall Undergraduate Scholarship: Environment $5,000 scholarship college sophomore or junior, demonstrated interest in environmental studies, application
    EPA Undergraduate Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship $50,000 in scholarship, stipend, and support two years of undergraduate study, US citizenship or permanent resident, "B" overall average GPA, attending a school with low research funding, application
    The Corliss Knapp Engle Scholarship in Horticulture $1,000 scholarship pursuing bachelor's degree in environmental health at institution accredited by EHAC or is NEHA member, at least one year remaining of college
     The Corliss Knapp Engle Scholarship in Horticulture  $2,500 scholarship  application, college undergraduate or graduate, advanced degree-seeking or non degree-seeking applicants above the high school level
     The Frances M. Peacock Scholarship for Native Bird Habitat  $4,500 scholarship  application, college senior or graduate student
     The Garden Club of America Summer Scholarship in Field Botany $2,500 award   undergraduate student enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university
     The Zeller Summer Scholarship in Medicinal Botany  $2,000 award  undergraduate student enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university
     The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany  $2,500 award  undergraduate student enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university
     The Loy McCandless Marks Scholarship in Tropical Horticulture  $5,000 scholarship  advance undergraduate student, U.S. citizen, applied toward study abroad