The Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability (TRACS) is a network of faculty members, students, and sustainability professionals supporting the higher education sector in the Texas region (includes LA, AR, OK) implement climate change and sustainability solutions across campus operations, the curriculum and off-campus fields of influence. TRACS facilitates the sharing of information and resources pertaining to climate and sustainability initiatives through a variety of means including regular summits and conference calls. TRACS is supported by volunteer members representing Texas colleges and universities and staff of the National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology program.
TRACS was formed at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Raleigh, North Carolina in the fall of 2008 with the support of the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Energy Conservation Office. Since 2008, TRACS has facilitated (see below) events, whether statewide or local, in-person or online depending on need, to accelerate and facilitate the sharing of information and resources pertaining to campus greenhouse gas emissions reductions and sustainability initiatives.
Outcomes of the network:
- Hosted first regional and statewide campus sustainability summits in Texas, providing new opportunities for faculty, students, staff and administrators to share best practices and resources to accelerate climate and sustainability solutions on campus. Summits include 1) North Central Texas Campus Climate Summit (50 participants from 15 different universities and colleges in the Dallas-Fort Worth area). 2) Houston Campus Climate Summit (30 participants from 10 campuses) 3) TRACS Statewide Summit (50 representatives from 20 plus campuses) and Central Texas Campus Climate Summit (60 participants from 10 campuses).
- Regular monthly virtual meetings providing space for campuses to share updates on sustainability projects and initiatives, discuss solutions to common challenges and collaborate on regional projects.
In the first two years of the network, through one-on-one meetings, consultations and summits, Campus Ecology helped advocate for and advance some of the first institutional level actions on climate change and sustainability in Texas higher education. Many Texas campus sustainability representatives were keen to hear from the program about our findings on national best practices and our guidance on basic sustainability steps such as completing greenhouse gas inventories and climate action plans, institutionalizing sustainability, and engaging students. They were also eager to participate in our summits and online meetings to foster new relationships and partnerships with peer campuses in order to learn from peer efforts. The years 2010-2102 saw a great deal of progress in advancing sustainability on many individual campuses as new full-time sustainability staff were hired and successful student green fee campaigns (on six public universities) brought new energy and funding for sustainability projects. These experiences were enthusiastically shared by campus representatives in the networks’ in-person and online gatherings.
As the sustainability movement in Texas is maturing there is greater desire to not just learn from each others’ experiences but also to engage in collaborative efforts both on a local (such as in Central Texas and Dallas-Fort) and statewide scale. Current members of the network are exploring common goals and standards to pursue as well as resources to support these goals.