Mission and Purpose

In alignment with the principles set forth in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical addressing ecology and care for our common home, St. Mary’s University is dedicated to the future of a sustainable world for all. The Laudato Si’ Action Platform, an initiative of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, serves as a valuable resource for the Church, providing tools and guidance for the journey towards total sustainability in the spirit of integral ecology.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, the Laudato Si‘ Action Platform empowers the Church to implement tangible and enduring solutions to the ecological issues. This program has continually assisted St. Mary’s University in crafting a personalized Laudato Si‘ Action Plan with the goal of taking concrete actions to protect and sustain our home.

Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed.

Laudato Si’ 14

Green Initiatives

Waste Minimization

  • Lab experiments are designed by faculty and lab technicians to use non-hazardous material whenever possible in lab experiments.
  • Water-based paint is used instead of oil-based paint for campus internal and external applications.
  • Campus cafeteria has discontinued the use of Styrofoam containers for food and beverage “to-go” orders and is using reusable green containers.
  • New water fountains installed as part of building renovations or new construction include water bottle refill stations.

Waste Disposal

  • All hazardous chemical waste from academic and maintenance operations are classified by the Hazard Code and disposed of per Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements.
  • Medical and bio-hazardous waste generated in our Student Health Center, Biology research, and Athletics department is collected and shipped off-site for incineration by an authorized treatment facility.
  • Asbestos and lead material from construction and renovations is disposed of in authorized landfills designed to prevent migration of hazardous material into soil or groundwater.
  • All spray cans are punctured and disposed of as scrap metal (contents disposed of as paint-related waste).
  • Used motor oil and refrigerant oil is collected, tested and disposed of based on halogen content.
  • All electronic waste and used batteries are shipped off-site for removal of hazardous components (heavy metals) and recycling.
  • All printer and copier toners and ink cartridges are shipped back to the manufacturer or third-party recycling facility.
  • Kitchen grease from food service operations is collected in an above ground tank and picked up monthly by recycling service.
  • Two grease traps collect grease and solids from food service sinks and one interceptor collects automotive residual oil and solids from the vehicle wash rack before entering the municipal sewer system.
  • All bulbs and lamps from light fixtures are shipped off site for removal of hazardous components (mercury) and recycling.


St. Mary’s University has programs in place to recycle campus waste such as aluminum and tin cans, plastic, paper, cardboard, batteries, bulbs, lamps, e-waste, scrap metal, kitchen grease and ink cartridges. The main campus utilizes a 30-yard recycling compactor to process mingled recyclable material (paper, plastic, cans, glass).

Following each annual Fiesta Oyster Bake, the Alumni Associate recycles plastics and donates hundres of pounds of oyster shells for reef restoration projects. 

Community Gardens Initiative

Thanks to the efforts of the Laudato Si’ Implementation Committee on Sustainability, St. Mary’s University is expanding its commitment to environmental stewardship with the development of a second community garden. Located on the main campus behind the Science Plaza and Drone Lab, this new garden aims to be accessible to more students, faculty, and staff, complementing our original garden at the Center for Legal and Social Justice. This initiative is part of our ongoing journey since becoming Texas’ first Laudato Si’ University in 2021, followed by the development of our Laudato Si’ Action Plan in 2022. Chaired by David Turner, Ph.D., this effort involves a collaborative effort from students, faculty, and staff, including Mary Beth Hawkins, Ph.D. who leads the garden’s construction and maintenance planning. We thank the Sustainability Committee for their dedication to fulfilling our commitment to sustainable practices and serving our community.


Steps to Minimize Energy Usage

Environmental sustainability is good stewardship and a key component of the Catholic Marianist mission.  The University has taken steps to minimize energy and water usage on campus.

  • All residence Halls and most academic buildings have been converted to green tip compact fluorescent bulbs four to six times more efficient than regular light bulbs.  Green tip fluorescent also contains very little mercury and is less harmful at point of disposal. 
  • Building renovations and new construction are fitted with low-flow faucets, toilets and water fountains with water bottle refill stations.
  • A Groundwater Conservation Plan supported by annual Irrigation System Checkups is in place to manage the well water and municipal water usage for campus landscape and athletic field irrigation.

The University currently consists of roughly 135 acres and 1.3 million square feet of usable building space that requires a large amount of power and water for normal operations. The University monitors energy and water consumption using “Energy Star Portfolio Manager,” an online tool created by a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency and CPS Energy (a San Antonio-owned utility company). All new building designs or major renovations include design consideration to enhance energy and water conservation.

Steps to Help Reduce Water Waste

In 2018, St. Mary’s University incorporated a rainwater harvesting system to help irrigate the campus in an effort to raise campus awareness of the importance of being water-wise on and off campus.

A 5,050-gallon tank collects and saves approximately 250,000 gallons of rainwater that fall onto that area of campus annually.

Steps to Help Reduce Food Waste

St. Mary’s University’s community garden provides a fun and interactive way for staff, volunteers, students and the community to reduce food waste. Through production and consumption, the hidden garden provides fresh produce, reducing consumption of packaged foods that contribute to waste.

Steps to Promote Fair Trade

St. Mary’s University was the first fair trade University. Fair trade is a social movement that helps producers in developing countries work in safe conditions, improve the lives of their families, and earn extra money to invest in their communities. The Office of Community Engagement sponsors a bi-annual Fair Trade Market to support the University’s mission to promote ethical trade.  

Producers – often children – of coffee, tea, chocolate, handicrafts and other products in developing countries often work in poor conditions and are paid less than a living wage. Producing some of these commodities may damage the environment. By purchasing fair trade products, consumers increase global quality of life, protect the environment and ensure the production of high-quality goods. 

Student Involvement

Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability

The Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability encompasses teaching the scientific skills to study and learn about our environment as well as being firmly rooted in the principles of sustainability. Aligning seamlessly with the teachings of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology and care for our common home, our focus is on creating a sustainable world for all. Sustainability is a multidisciplinary field, and thus the department will collaborate with other departments across St. Mary’s University to provide students with education in multiple emerging fields.

Environment, Conservation and Outreach Club

The Environment, Conservation and Outreach Club (ECO) is a social club that aims to address environmental issues and promote sustainability through outreach at St. Mary’s University through connection and educational opportunities within our local community.

Sustainability Committee

The Environmental Sustainability Committee comprised of students, faculty and staff meets monthly in Garni Science Hall to share information and foster participation in recycling and sustainability programs. Waste minimization and recycling are key focus areas for the University.

Sustainable Events

Gold and Blue Go Green

Reflecting the importance of the care for creation, Gold and Blue Go Green brings together St. Mary’s faculty and students in discussions on discipline-specific topics and actions regarding sustainability issues, locally, nationally and globally.

Laudato Si Committee

The University’s Laudato Si’ committee continues identifying ways to implement sustainability measures. Associate Professor of Environmental Science David Turner, Ph.D., chair of the new committee, said the goal is to develop a roadmap identifying ways to advance each of the seven steps that are not just achievable, but also measurable. Allison Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Greek, serves as an ex officio member on the committee. Evelynn Mitchell, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Science, said St. Mary’s is off to a strong start, but more people will have to get involved to increase the impact. 

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