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Articles: Sustainability

Back in September, the Crough Center at The Catholic University of America (D.C.) became the first building in the world to be LEED certified by students as part of a formal course.

Developed in 2011 by Patricia Andrasik, assistant professor of architecture, the LEED Lab course not only teaches students about green building codes and projects, but certifies them in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, or EB: O+M.

Mercer University Bears football fans who enter the Macon, Ga., campus through the Stadium Drive entrance now pass the school’s new fountain and surrounding rain garden. The garden, which is 1.5 acres, is not only attractively landscaped—it serves a dual purpose by collecting rainwater runoff from nearby parking lots.


The former tension pond near Mercer’s football stadium had been built to code to control runoff but was unattractive and occupied a lot of space, says James Netherton, executive vice president for administration and finance.

The University of Baltimore set clear sustainability goals when it began planning its new law school building.

“It had to be [LEED] Platinum, but it also had to be an environment that would be exciting for staff and students to spend days and late nights studying in,” says Nebeye Sertsu, vice president for facilities management and capital planning. “We embedded in the design how we interact with students, how we represent the city and how we talk about our campus to prospective students.”

Higher education institutions can venerate or perpetuate hallowed traditions. Institutions have had a reputation for infrastructure conservatism. William Rees’ 2003 article “Impeding Sustainability? The Ecological Footprint of Higher Education” states “the real challenge for higher education is to help articulate an alternative life-sustaining worldview.” Today, campuses lead the transformation to sustainability, demonstrating its value nationwide.

"There is no magic wand that can resolve our problems. The solution rests with our work and discipline."
—Jose Eduardo Dos Santos

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

A 20-year agreement to bring solar power from North Carolina to D.C. could become a model for how large urban organizations can meet energy needs by tapping offsite solar energy.

The partnership, involving The George Washington University, American University and The George Washington University Hospital, is the latest step the two universities are taking toward carbon neutrality, which both have pledged to reach.

UC Davis' $8.5 million biodigester will provide an annual 5.6 million kilowatt hours to the campus

Food, yard and animal waste at University of California, Davis is being converted into energy by a biodigester that’s the largest of its kind on a college campus.

The $8.5 million facility, unveiled on Earth Day, will provide an annual 5.6 million kilowatt hours to the campus. That’s enough to power 800 California homes, says Sid England, assistant vice chancellor of environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Stephen Madigosky is a professor of environmental science at Widener University in Chester, Pa.

I live in a world of lectures, faculty meetings and final exams. For my environmental science students and me at Widener University in Chester, Pa., however, it’s also a world of hands-on research on a butterfly farm in Costa Rica, or experiential learning in the rainforests of Peru.

This world didn’t include university food service contracts, price points, or product launches until my chance meeting with an alumnus who shared a passion for environmental sustainability. That meeting led to a simple, delicious cup of coffee.

Repurposing an old campus building may not have the wow factor that comes with creating a new facility from scratch. But colleges and universities driven by financial, environmental and sentimental forces sometimes find rejuvenating the buildings they already have is a more practical solution.

Today’s up-and-coming millennials are taking different learning style and lifestyle trajectories than our country’s one-career, suburban dwelling baby boomers. Young 20- and 30-somethings have flocked to metropolitan centers seeking upscale amenities, edgy culture and a more sustainable way of living and learning. They are attracted by underground music venues, microbreweries, artist galleries utilizing nontoxic materials, and Wi-Fi cafes that serve free trade coffee.

Colleges and universities nationwide marked the 10th annual Campus Sustainability Day in October with events and discussions that reflect on the success of the sustainability movement in higher education.

Rob Thompson, director of academic and core applications, Wayne State University

More is not always better, as Wayne State University discovered. Like many universities, Wayne State relied on a dual system where applicants submitted some information online, and other information using paper forms. The result was a clumsy and redundant process.

University of Dayton freshmen pledge to ride with two wheels rather than drive with four.

One hundred freshman at The University of Dayton were given bikes this fall after the students signed a pledge not to bring a car to campus during their first two years at the Ohio school.

What’s one way to please students, engage an entire campus community, and save money all while helping protect the environment?

The answer is greening sports programs, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in its new report, “Collegiate Game Changers.”