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Articles: Sustainability

Presidents, CFOs, and trustee finance committee members will not travel too far down any paths related to sustainability until their associated costs are identified and thoroughly assessed.

Unfortunately, these considerations often still take place within confusing, partially-informed situations on campuses. Budgeting strategically to accomplish multiyear sustainability objectives is among the most significant challenges for a leadership team. Optimally, there needs to be a budget process in place that can flexibly address key sustainability needs at any point in a fiscal year.

Over the course of approximately 200 conversations and interviews for our book, The Sustainable University: Green Goals and New Challenges for Higher Education Leaders (Johns Hopkins, 2012), it became apparent that while many believe the period for orientations to sustainability has passed and the movement has transitioned from one of general citizen awareness to the need for tangible solutions, many

touchscreen energy dashboard at Middlebury College

Although taking steps to protect the environment is “the right thing to do,” it doesn’t stop people from wanting to know their efforts are making a difference. An energy dashboard can be the answer to communicating the results of campus initiatives.

“Real-time, web-based dashboards really take what’s happening in the boiler room to the dorm room,” says Mike Kempa,
senior marketing manager for the Energy and Environmental Solutions Group at Honeywell.

Middlebury College expects to earn $5,000 to $10,000 from the sale of electricity from its 34-solar-tracker solar farm on campus.

With dropping solar prices, state and federal incentives, and innovative financing models, the crop of campus solar installations has become a healthy one. In fact, installed solar capacity grew 450 percent from 2008 to 2011, when the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) launched its Campus Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installations Database.

Campus water use is high, particularly in residence halls, at a time when The U.S. Drought Monitor (operating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) estimates that as much as 60 percent of the contiguous United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Thirty-seven percent of that area was at drought levels as of April, an increase from 27 percent a year ago.
That's why it is more important than ever to conserve this precious natural resource, and colleges and universities are stepping up to save.

Every action starts with an idea. That’s why, for the seventh annual green issue, the University Business editorial team decided to share some great ideas that have resulted in changes in the way campuses think about food, water, energy consumption, and solar energy. Whether by helping members of their communities realize the impact of the food they eat, or reminding them to carry a reusable water bottle, institutions are seeing huge reductions in their environmental impact. And it all started with an idea. Read the rest of our stories to get the green wheels turning.

Move over LEED, there’s a new certification in town. It’s not just buildings getting a green stamp of approval these days—events are, too. Colleges and universities across the country have begun implementing “certified green events programs” to limit the impact campus events have on the environment.

Sometimes the way to improved efficiency lies in a spreadsheet. Sometimes it lies in a piece of software.

And sometimes it lies in a restroom.


Advancement officials at Southern Polytechnic State University (Ga.) had both practical and aspirational reasons to reconsider how it ran its faculty/staff annual giving campaign. From a practical standpoint, designing and printing packets filled with a promotional postcard, sheets listing accounts and giving incentives, a pledge card, a return envelope, and labels for each of the university’s nearly 850 faculty and staff was costly. Not to mention, printing, stuffing, and distributing these packets took valuable human resources department time.

Most colleges and universities attending EduComm send one or two, sometimes three, people to the conference. Last June, Life University (Ga.) sent seven of its administrators and faculty to learn from the breakout sessions and see the latest higher education technology on the EduComm exhibit floor.

The second year of the ongoing Models of Efficiency program continues to demonstrate that campus departments can be innovative and inspired when it comes to finding ways to provide superior service and maximize resources.

"We believe that improving the efficiency of administrative services yields cost savings and reputation benefits that can propel a college into the top tier of success," noted Miles Lasater, chief operations officer and cofounder of Higher One, which has sponsored the Models of Efficiency program from the start.

Harvard University has long been known to take the lead in research, public administration, and business and law studies, so why not sustainability? The university has become the first higher education institution to have earned 50 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications for new construction or renovation to existing buildings. LEED-certified buildings save money on energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to a healthier environment.

In higher education, sustainability and green design have moved beyond buzzwords to become real practice. Programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, and the College Sustainability Report Card are commonplace measures of an institution’s commitment to sustainability.