Sustainability - The University of Tulsa
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The University of Tulsa is committed to sustainability. TU is made a significant impact on addressing the world’s most pressing challenges, striving for a more sustainable and equitable future.

17 Goals for People, for Planet

The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 Goals recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection. #ForPeopleForPlanet

The University of Tulsa is committed to contributing to this global agenda. Explore the impact that TU is making on Sustainability Development.

There are many ways to be a part of the sustainability culture at The University of Tulsa.

If you live on campus, you can save energy by preparing your residence for any extended time you are away by:

  • Closing blinds and tilt the slats upwards.
  • Unplugging all chargers, fans, coffee pots, candle warmers and other items that are plugged into an outlet that can be unplugged without damage.
  • Emptying out, clean, unplug and leave personal refrigerator doors open.
  • Turning off TVs, computers and printers.
  • Turning off all lights.

We serve as a connection for all members of the campus community – including faculty, staff and students – to advance policies and projects and participate in processes that lead to a more sustainable future.

  • Cenergistic Partnership

    The University of Tulsa have a partnership with the Dallas-based energy conservation firm Cenergistic to implement a new energy sustainability program that will increase technology, scaling capacity and organizational continuity among the university’s physical plant systems.

    Cenergistic services will help TU redirect money from utility costs to improve classroom technology by managing energy and sustainability initiatives in TU Physical Plant. TU has a long history of engaging in sustainability projects including reducing water consumption among common campus areas, eliminating paper usage by moving to electronic records, installing solar panels, implementing recycling initiatives and adding educational content to its website about off-campus conservation strategies. TU also is home to a sustainability committee featuring faculty, staff and students who encourage campus engagement and conduct environmentally friendly research. Teaming up with Cenergistic reinforces TU’s priorities on further reducing energy usage, capturing additional cost savings and providing more resources for the Physical Plant staff.

    “Our partnership with Cenergistic will help us close funding and personnel gaps, allowing us to spend our budget where it matters: providing students an exceptional education with the appropriate resources, said Jason Grunin, TU assistant vice president of business and energy. “Every dollar we save on energy helps us further the environment, experience and education of our students.”

    Two energy specialists will be deployed to TU, equipped with Cenergistic’s Ceres cloud-based, machine learning software, which includes real-time alerts, to augment optimization of TU’s equipment and energy usage across all university buildings and facilities. Cenergistic also provides remote and onsite engineering and measurement and verification experts.

    “Cenergistic is thrilled to partner with The University of Tulsa to implement our Energy Sustainability program. With our full-time onsite energy specialists equipped with the latest software working to ensure all facilities and systems are functioning at peak efficiency, coupled with an organizational behavior-based approach to energy conservation, we believe the university will see great success in both cost and energy savings,” said Dr. Randy Hoff, vice chairman of Cenergistic. “It is our mission that, with help from everyone in the organization, we will create a culture of sustainability that will progress into the future.”

    The Energy Sustainability Program will help TU qualify its buildings for ENERGY STAR® certification with the Environmental Protection Agency. University officials also look forward to strengthening the mindset of conservation and a culture of sustainability among staff and students prompted by the Cenergistic partnership.

    About Cenergistic

    For more than 30 years Cenergistic has helped over 1,400 K-12 districts, universities and government municipalities find more than $5B in hidden electricity, natural gas and water savings by applying sustainability as a service solution on their campuses. Superintendents, CFOs, COOs and board members can reduce energy and water spending by up to 25% annually with no capital investment, while improving the comfort and quality of classroom and building environments, helping students and employees achieve their full potential. For ten consecutive years, Cenergistic has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year. To learn more visit

  • Student Groups and Campus Engagement

    Students for Sustainability

    Our purpose is to lead the campus towards a greener future. We press for the change that is necessary, one step at a time.

    Students for Sustainability strives to build a greener future for the campus and the community through direct action. Our three committees organize campaigns to improve our relationship with the environment. We work alongside other environmental groups and action teams in the community and utilize our diverse perspectives for more effective operation.

    Sustainable Engineering for Needy and Emerging Areas (SENEA)

    SENEA club does humanitarian work with communities and families around the world.

  • Faculty Engaged in Sustainability Research

    Indoor Air Program – Richard Shaughnessy, Research Associate

    Collins College of Business –  Tim Coburn

    Sustainable Energy and Resources Law – Gary Allison

    Engineering and Natural Sciences – Jim Sorem

    Chemical Engineering – Tyler Johannes (Algae Biofuels, Synthetic Biology)

    Chemistry – Dale Teeters (Nanochemistry and Materials Chemistry as they apply to Battery Electrode and Electrolyte Materials)

Classes, Programs & Opportunities

Interested in a career geared towards saving the planet?

Check out our Earth-friendly options and save the planet while earning college credit.

  • Majors and Certificates


    View Energy Programs

    • Environmental Policy (B.A. or B.S.)
    • Geosciences, Environmental Science Option (B.S.)
    • Earth and Environmental Sciences (B.A.)
    • Biogeosciences (B.S.)
    • Energy Management (B.S.B.A.)



    Sustainable Energy and Resources Law (SERL) program at TU Law offers an intensive curriculum focusing on energy, environmental, and natural resource law and policy.

  • Courses

    This is a sampling of sustainability courses offered at The University of Tulsa:

    • ACCT: Financial Reporting in the Energy Industry
    • BIOL: Environmental Ethics and Conservation
    • CHEMEnvironmental Chemistry
    • ECON: Resources and the Environment
    • EMGT: Power Industry & Alternative Renewable Energy
    • ES: Sustainable Energy
    • GEOL: Energy, Environment and Climate Change
    • GLSC: Sustainability and Urban Development
    • HIST: American Environmental History
    • LAW: Natural Resources and Environmental Law On Federal Lands
    • ME: Energy Conversion
    • MEB: Management of the Energy Supply Chain
    • MJEL: Renewable Energy Development
    • PE: Sustainable Oil and Gas Operations
    • SOC: Environmental Sociology
  • Research Opportunities

    The university has been a beacon of technical research, hands-on learning opportunities and cutting-edge innovation for decades. While honoring its rich history in oil and gas research, TU is evolving into a center of excellence for all energy resources, which now including solar, wind, nanobatteries and biofuels.

    Learn about exciting Energy Research and Patents around the university.

Sustainability Projects

  • Water Initiatives


    A large portion of the water consumed at The University of Tulsa is for the lawns. To prevent water loss, a high technology sprinkler system becomes a necessity. During the last five years, TU has implemented new technologies in three phases to reduce water consumption. In phase one (2011), a Rainbird Sprinkler system was installed. This system is completely interconnected, and breaks the sprinklers down into zones that are monitored via computer 24 hours a day for any burst pipes or broken sprinklers. In phase two (2012), an advanced weather system that can detect rain, moisture of soil, and wind speed was installed, enabling the sprinkler system to calculate how much water was necessary, then shut off water supply when appropriate. Phase three of the sprinkler system included flow sensors and valve controls. The sensors monitor the university’s 12 water feeders and are capable of shutting down a zone until repairs are made. The valve controls measure through-put in the pipes and water output, calculating the amount of time a sprinkler should run.


    The fountains around the university also are connected to a weather station that monitors wind speed. If wind speed is too high, the fountains will run at half of their maximum height. The water used in the fountains also comes from a reclamation tank, so water is continually reused.

    Permeable Pavers

    TU is a member of Partners for A Clean Environment (PACE), a voluntary, nonregulatory program coordinated by the City of Tulsa’s Quality Assurance and Stormwater Quality groups. Use of permeable stone pavers near Lorton Performance Center allows the university to be a member of PACE’s group of Low Impact Developers. The permeable pavers contribute to a healthier watershed by allowing storm water to seep into the ground rather than overwhelming nearby streams during flood events. The pavers also keep pollutants from entering the waterways, while lessening rates of erosion.

    Hydration Stations     

    The university recognizes the positive impact of refillable water bottles. By distributing free water bottles to the student body and installing over 65 “Hydration Stations” around campus, TU has contributed to the reduction of plastic water bottles. The Hydration Stations allow those on campus a quick and easy water bottle refill while simultaneously tallying plastic water bottles saved. As of the last count in February 2014, TU had saved 1.82 million plastic water bottles.

    Go Trayless

    Conservation of our resources is a fundamental aspect of sustainability. Going trayless means that when we go through food lines in the cafeterias, or elsewhere, we do so without a tray. Being trayless conserves food as well as the water needed to wash the trays.

  • Food Initiatives

    Food Bank

    Dining Services has many programs promoting sustainability that are related to food production. TU participates in the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma’s Food Recovery Program that donates leftover food from both the Pat Case Dining Center and Allen Chapman Student Union. A representative from the Food Bank comes to TU twice a week — Tuesday and Thursdays — to pick up food, which is then distributed to other centers that feed hungry people in Tulsa. TU has donated 4,400 pounds of food through the Food Recovery Program since April 2015. This program is making great progress in reducing the amount of food thrown away while helping the community.

  • Paper Initiatives

    TU implemented paperless services to save paper. Services include:

    • Direct deposit requirement for most payroll and reimbursement transactions
    • Duplex Printing in computer labs
    • Use of the TU Portal for important paperwork
    • Mandatory online completion of Human Resources’ Monthly Leave form
    • TU Employee Phone Directory only available online
    • Double-sided copying default initiative in Collins College of Business and the Student Association
    • Collins College of Business Academic Advising Office completed conversion from paper files to electronic files
    • Physical Plant currently is working on distributing work orders via mobile devices, eliminating paper printed work orders.
    • Under the new print quote policy, each student is limited to 1,000 black and white pages or page-sides per semester. After the 1,000 pages have been reached, students will be required to purchase more pages. This is in effort to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from printing.
  • Energy Initiatives

    Solar Panels

    TU continues to lead sustainability efforts among educational institutions in Oklahoma by the addition of 936 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels that were installed on the roof of the Case Tennis Center in 2016. The 300-kilowatt system is owned by PSO and leased by TU. To maximize energy production throughout the day, approximately half of the panels face east and the other half face west. The panels should produce up to 400,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year, the same amount of solar energy harvested by 75 residential structures. The electricity generated will supply power to the Case Center.

    Energy Management

    The university’s goal is to implement gridSMART technology into the largest academic buildings, eventually followed by campus apartments. This technology will allow students to use electricity more efficiently.

    Energy Metering Project

    The goal here is to improve building features to save money and electricity. Our initial specific target is installation of occupancy sensors as part of all renovations and new construction to save lighting costs. Sensors have been added to Mabee gym and are in College of Law renovation plans. Keplinger Hall’s renovated classrooms include sensor lighting. The third floor of Helmerich Hall has increased the arch value of the building envelope, increased insulation to a 4 factor of 30.

    Construction/renovation completed in Tyrrell Hall included replacing lighting and other structural changes to improve the electrical mechanical elements and to improve the efficiency of the roof tile. The single pane leaded glass windows were rebuilt maintaining the original look.

  • Purchasing Initiatives

    All computers must be purchased via the internal campus computer store. Each purchase also includes a mandated Dell managed recycling program to ensure the equipment is disposed of properly at the end of its life.

    WFF oversees all of our purchasing of cleaning supplies for the campus. As policy, all main cleaning products purchased are GreenSeal certified.

    Our paper supplier, WordCom, supplies only recycled paper unless the department requests specifically non-recycled for special needs projects and or what the department requests is not available as a recycled product.

Ways To Conserve

  • Recreation/Travel


    • Act in culturally respectful ways.
    • Learn about current environmental issues in the places you are visiting. Different regions will have different situations based on their ecosystems. Learn about the effects of mass tourism on beaches, mountains, wetlands, deserts, etc. and then seek to counter those effects.
    • Use accommodations that have a reputation for being sustainable (they recycle, use alternative forms of energy, are owned by or employ locals, contribute to local causes). Increasingly, there are regional and national certification systems that accommodations can obtain if they are sustainably operated, much like the organic labeling system. Check to see if there are any local certification labels that can help you to determine where to stay. Search the Internet to do this (country name + tourism certification) or inquire with the visitor.
    • If you go camping, make sure you have any necessary permits and follow local park rules.
    • Choose your recreational activities wisely. Low impact sports that don’t involve a lot of equipment or fossil fuels and that don’t disturb the environment or local communities are preferable.
    • Contribute something to the place or community you are visiting, beyond just the money you are spending to get what you want. Donate some money to a good and relevant cause either before, during, or after your visit. Plan ahead to contribute some time, and volunteer at an organization that you deem worthy.
    • Chose destinations based on their demonstrated commitment to sustainable practices including their human rights record, environmental conservation record, commitment to peace, etc.
    • Don’t pick up and take home natural resources such as shells, plants, animal bones, etc.
    • Stay in locally owned accommodations, eat at locally owned restaurants, and hire local guides.
  • Everyday Life
    • Minimize your impact on the environment.
    • Engage with locals and participate in the local community.
    • Use water sparingly. Many communities face water shortages and water usage costs money. Take quick showers.
    • Save electricity. Turn off lights, air conditioners, and heaters when you are not in the room.
    • Don’t litter! Even if you notice the locals doing so, try to find a container to dispose of your litter. Always recycle if possible.
    • Don’t buy products made from endangered species or valuable, historical, or cultural artifacts. Ask about where a product comes from. Many of these products are illegal to export. Report incidences to local or national conservation organizations.
    • Use local and public transport whenever possible. Take a train or bus. Bike or walk. Try to fly less—airplanes produce massive amounts of ozone-depleting carbon dioxide.
    • If it is within your budget, contribute money to an organization involved in carbon offsetting every time you fly. They will, in turn, contribute money to worthy organizations that are involved in projects that seek alternative energy sources, plant trees, etc. in order to reduce the amount of ozone-depleting carbon in the atmosphere, largely caused by air traffic.
    • Buy locally produced products and services.