Skip Navigation
Department of Natural Sciences



HT Elevates Its Sustainability Efforts with a Solar Recharging Station

October 15, 2014 – Austin, TX – Green is the New Black®, Huston-Tillotson University, and The Dumpster Project announced their partnership with Sol Design Lab, unveiling the installation of a solar recharging station at the entrance to the Dickey-Lawless natural science building on the Huston-Tillotson University (HT) campus.

The SolarPump™ will allow the university community to experience the future of renewable energy while charging laptops, electric bikes, scooters, cell phones, , iPods – anything that can charge from a standard 110 V outlet. The SolarPump™ not only helps keeps HT green but also promotes the connection between campus sustainability, the community, and education.

“It is great to see solar powered charging on campus at Huston-Tillotson,” says Brad Spies, SXSW, “We know from experience how engaging it is - it's a piece of art, it teaches people about solar, and it charges phones fast. It has been great to see the project develop over the past few years and I'm excited for the future.”

Designed in 2011 by Beth Ferguson and Dallas Swindle of Sol Design Lab with solar wiring work by Maverick Solar, the SolarPump™ was created to help people re-imagine the future of carbon-free cities, using the reclaimed body of a 1950’s gas pump retrofitted with solar panels, the SolarPump™ harnesses solar energy to charge any item using a standard electric plug.

In collaboration with SXSW, the SolarPump™ has been developed and refined as a charging station suitable for outdoor events, college campuses and permanent installations. It has charged phones, bikes, and other electronics at the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, as well as SXSW, Cochella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza.  

The project was brought to HT via a community collaboration involving the environmental student group, Green is the New Black®1 and The Dumpster Project2, HT’s leading education and research sustainability project.


  • Created from reclaimed gas pumps and other recycled scrap metal
  • Uses two 175 W solar panels, donated by Lighthouse Solar
  • Contains a 1100 Watt Inverter, donated by Exceltech
  • Outputs 110 V to a standard outlet
  • Has a digital read out panel to show solar energy stored in the batteries and electricity used while charging electronic devices

For more photos or information:

Huston-Tillotson University SolarPump installation photo set:

1"Austin’s Sustainable Secret: Student-founded Green Is the New Black makes renewable energy at Huston-Tillotson."

2 “Living Simply in a Dumpster”

Sol Design Lab creates unique and eye-catching designs focusing on renewable energy. Since 2009, principals Beth Ferguson and Dallas Swindle have collaborated with architects, engineers, designers, fabricators and ecologists on award winning projects. These solar charging stations can charge anything from cell phones to electric scooters, provide energy efficient lighting, Internet connectivity, gather data about the environment and display information on an integrated digital screen. Our goal is to spark conversations about energy use, resiliency, recycling objects, evolving use of public space and innovation for our changing world.

Huston-Tillotson University, Austin’s first institution of higher education, offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 20 areas of study. The historically black university is affiliated with The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.


Huston-Tillotson University Hosts the First Annual Building Green Justice Forum

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Students, community leaders, educators, and social activists hosted the first Building Green Justice Forum, on Thursday, September 25, 2014 on the campus at 900 Chicon Street. Co-hosted by Huston-Tillotson University, Ecology Action of Texas, Green is the New Black, and the Dumpster Project, the forum was a hugely successes initiative bringing together many interested groups to discuss collaborations to empower social equality in the East Austin community, especially from an environmental justice perspective.

The forum included a community organization panel featuring representatives from Austin Youth Riverwatch, Cooperation Texas, Foundation Communities, and the Texas Campaign for the Environment hosted by HT’s Senior Development Officer Dominique Bowman; presentations and critical discussions from the University of Texas at Austin’s Dr. Eric Tang and Equilibrio's Dr. Tane Ward; and workshops on consensus building, navigating broadcast media, and online environmental information available via the Environmental Protection Agency.

During the past five years, HT has enhanced its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) offerings with the goal of encouraging more minorities to enter those fields. HT’s new interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program similarly aims to draw minority students into sustainability areas like environmental justice, global warming, conservation biology, renewable energy, air and water pollution, environmental law, and environmental policy.

“Hosting this forum will provide an opportunity to not only showcase the University’s sustainability efforts but will ensure that environmental consciousness remains a campus topic of conversation and action,” said HT President and CEO Larry L. Earvin, Ph.D.

Huston-Tillotson University has been developing a variety of sustainability projects. Last fall, HT’s sustainability-focused student organization Green is the New Black® captured first place in the nationwide Ford Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Community Challenge. The students addressed the challenge theme of “Building Sustainable Communities” by presenting an educational and outreach program focused on environmental concerns in Black and Hispanic communities. A major component of their program is HT’s Dumpster Project, which aims to transform a 33-square foot dumpster into a fully functioning home complete with running water, toilet, shower, bed, and solar-generated electricity while facilitating green conversation and learning.  Since the project launch in February 2014, the dumpster has been equipped with a false floor ‘basement’ that stores cooking equipment, bedding and clothing, an improved roof, air conditioning, solar lighting, bug repellant systems, and an online weather data station. Both Green is the New Black and the Dumpster Project were named among the 2014 “Best of Austin” by the Austin Chronicle. Additionally, HT was the first institution of higher education in Central Texas to go tobacco-free and the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in Texas to do so.

HT has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation for its sustainability efforts and commitment to creating a campus community that focuses on recycling, energy conservation, and waste reduction. HT was named a finalist in the 2014 Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards (CLA). The annual competition is held among United States colleges and universities that are signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The awards program is sponsored by Second Nature, a national nonprofit that seeks to create a sustainable society by transforming higher education, and Planet Forward, an organization that engages innovators and publishes compelling ideas for some of society’s biggest challenges.

Supporters contributing to HT’s sustainability efforts include Johnson Controls, Texas Disposal Systems, Treehouse Green Building Supply, and Whole Earth Provision. The Building Green Justice Forum was supported by Earthshare of Texas, Thundercloud Subs, Whole Foods Market, Texas Coffee Traders, and SXSWEco.