Sustainability has become more important than ever in the 21st century as businesses, governments, schools, and private individuals begin to understand how much change they can make, and need to make, to protect the Earth. Globally, there is a movement to protect the Earth but locally, there is a strong tradition in preserving and maintaining the planet.
Traditionally, farmers have understood the relationship between humankind and the Earth better than others, understanding that our actions have direct consequences on our food, water, air, and quality of life. In Rio South Texas, the region in which The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) is located, agriculture has played an important part in the economic and cultural history; citrus and other vegetables are cultivated year-round, with many family incomes depending on that success. Additionally, much of the population of the Rio South Texas region has roots in Mexico and the ranching traditions from that country. These factors combine to produce an area that is rich in its connection to the land.
In accordance with our local tradition and global movements, UTPA strives to be a beacon of leadership to the Rio Grande Valley and Texas in sustainability. It created the University Sustainability Council (USC) to build a comprehensive program for sustainability on campus, bridging the gap between old traditions and the young generation. The movement to incorporate sustainability represents a broad-based effort by faculty, staff, and students, under the leadership of the 25-member Council, to examine issues across a broad array of academic, administrative, and operational programs at UTPA.
The staff, faculty, and administrators of UTPA have worked hard to make it a prominent university in the region of Rio South Texas. In 2009, Forbes ranked UTPA in their 100 America’s Best Public Colleges as 3rd in the state of Texas behind UT Austin and Texas A&M College Station; it was 32nd in the nation. UTPA was also ranked second in the nation for awarding bachelor degrees to Hispanics. Ideally located in one of the fastest growing areas of the country, UTPA is situated alongside the international border between the US and Mexico. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is scheduled to have 1.9 million people by 2030, which is a 397% growth rate from the 1990 population. This situation presents unique challenges as well as opportunities with regard to sustainability. UTPA is rising to the challenge, recognizing unhealthy mindsets and is working to change them in favor of sustainable attitudes and action.