When you hear of green colleges, you might feel the need to scream for Michigan State University or the University of Oregon. However, that is not the type of green being discussed on the campuses of higher learning institutions today. Just as corporations and homes are becoming environmentally aware of the need to conserve costs, it is necessary for universities and colleges to follow suit. Being at the forefront of research in many areas of science makes universities well prepared to take on the leading role in research and development for environmentally friendly goals.
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) a green campus is defined as “a higher education community that is improving energy efficiency, conserving resources and enhancing environmental quality by educating for sustainability and creating healthy living and learning environments.” USBBC estimates that schools make up almost half of the buildings awarded a certified green status. They hope to give all children a chance to attend a green school or campus within the next few decades. Congress is currently working on a bill to approve twenty-five billion dollars to help schools achieve this goal.
Colleges that LEED the Way
Several college and universities have taken the lead in innovation and scale for eco friendly development. Old fashioned hard work and sweat is helping out Oregon State University as students create power for the recreation building when they work out on the elliptical machines. Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) has a “Go Trayless” campaign, hoping that with less trays being used, then needing to be cleaned, that they can conserve even more water. GIT also implemented a policy requiring vendors to utilize only green products. Arizona State University (ASU) can be proud of having the largest solar array on any United States campus. The University of Maine has free shuttle service into town and free bicycles for everyone to use on campus, which helps keep carbon emissions down.
Northeastern University (NU), in Boston, has become the poster child for composting by showing that they can compost almost 600 tons of cafeteria waste a year. They were the first to be certified as a LEED gold status and a 3 star Green Restaurant in the United States. NU also proved that changing lights bulbs really can make a difference. Recently, they saved over 600 tons of carbon emissions by switching over 70,000 lights to low wattage fluorescents lights.
University of Washington (UW) is saving over 30 million gallons of water a year after they changed out hundreds of toilets. UW is well on its way to becoming a complete green campus by having 13 LEED certified buildings and dozens more in the process to get qualified. The University has also changed out their hundreds of vehicles to be alternative fuel.
Higher education institutions have always been forward thinking, and in today’s green world they are proving it to the world over again. The Princeton Review recognized how important a green campus was to students and created a guide that lists 311 institutions and what they are doing to be green. Becoming a green campus is not just about how a university handles the waste it creates, or saves energy with the type of light bulb; its also about how they are teaching future generations to keep the momentum going. Bachelor programs in LEED certification and green engineering are a must.
Take that First Step
These universities have taken the steps forward and give everyone a green example to follow. Whether you are a large corporation, a small municipality, or just a simple homeowner, the steps taken by these institutions can be scaled to fit your needs. Composting takes the simple step of having bins available in the cafeterias, or by the kitchen sink to place food waste in. Saving carbon emissions is as simple as changing a light bulb. Walk or bike to work when you can. Create a free shuttle system, or update your fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. Collect rainwater in barrels that can be used to water lawns, wash vehicles, or even be kept as an emergency water supply for a disaster kit. Put out recycle bins for paper, aluminum cans, and glass bottles from the drinking establishments. Imagine the world if everyone took just one of these steps at work and at home.