Growing a greener college: Andy Kim leads strides in sustainability

Andy Kim, (pictured at ACC's Northridge Campus), has been director of environmental stewardship since 2009.

For Andy Kim, Austin Community College’s director of environmental stewardship, being green may not always be easy – but it is essential.

Kim oversees the college’s award-winning initiatives in sustainability, projects that are helping ACC reduce its carbon footprint and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs.

“We’ve made really good progress,” he says. “We’re not just doing good for the environment, we’re saving money.”

It was five years ago that Kim was hired to execute newly adopted college policies for sustainable practices. At the time, a sustainability officer was unusual – at least in Austin.

“I didn’t know a job like this existed,” he says. “I thought, this is exactly what I trained for and what I was passionate for.”

Kim’s passion for green building and sustainability is tied to his roots: In his native country of South Korea, energy efficiency was a necessity. He was pursuing a doctorate degree in architecture with a concentration in sustainable design when he decided to move to Austin in the mid-1990s.

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He helped design several green buildings while working in the private sector, including the Ronald McDonald House of Austin and Central Texas, the first in the area to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification.

Making the move to ACC, however, not only gave him a chance to apply green building principles to existing facilities and new construction, but also the opportunity to share his passion with students.

“In higher education, we work with students who can make a big difference in our future,” he says. “We have an opportunity to lead and to teach our next generation who can make our world a better place.”

Under Kim’s leadership ACC’s sustainability initiatives – and the accolades the college has received because of them – continue to grow. In 2012, ACC was one of only two community colleges to receive a Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature and the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Â The latest award came in October 2014 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

“That tells us we’re setting a good example for other colleges and universities,” Kim says. Still, that doesn’t mean pursuing a goal of climate neutrality will be easy. Kim says students and employees can help through even the smallest actions, such as using water bottle filling stations, turning off the lights, and riding bus or bike when they can to reduce the number of vehicles coming to campus.

“It’s a big commitment to make, but to get there we all need to work together.”

Visit the Office of Sustainability webpage to join a campus Green Team or to see the many ways ACC is working to protect the environment.

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