You are here

Alternative Energy

The sustainability movement is on pace for rapid growth in the United States, with some analysts predicting it will approach $50 billion by 2013. Stanford University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Berkeley, and MIT top the U.S. News and World Report list of universities offering degrees in renewable energy, sustainable design, and conservation. It was only a matter of time then that a college, focused solely on preparing grads for careers in this field, would appear on the map.

In today’s discussions about buildings and architecture for higher education campuses, sustainability is touted for its positive environmental impact. However, sustainable design can be more than just responsible earth stewardship. It can impact operational costs, support and improve student learning, and even promote change in students’ behavior. Universities should approach sustainability as an expectation, not an add-on, incorporating it into the building process and thinking about all of its potential impact when making design decisions.

Students at the University of Albany (N.Y.) are being challenged to calculate their carbon footprint and then make strides to reduce it. This fall will be the third year UAlbany is providing two living and learning communities--one for freshmen and one for upperclassmen--focusing on the environment. They emphasize energy in the fall and recycling and waste reduction in the spring.

Richard Cook spends much of his time listening to college and university presidents ask questions about sustainability. Can we afford this? What if my trustees balk? Is global climate change exaggerated? Is carbon neutrality even possible? Cook responds with patience and knowledge about the impact of harmful greenhouse gases, about clean energy, and about why it makes fiscal sense to go green. "I liken it to the moonshot," says the former president of Allegheny College (Pa.).

Green 2010

Going Green is hardly a fresh concept for campuses anymore. Today, sustainability has become a focus in nearly all aspects of college and university management. From residence and dining halls to it operations and overall campus energy management, higher ed leaders are continuously coming up with new areas and ideas for strengthening sustainability efforts. Read on for dozens of ways your institution might go greener as well as a big-picture update on the presidents’ climate commitment.

When colleges and universities start assessing their carbon footprint, the IT department is likely to come under fire by virtue of having oversight of much of the energy consumption on campus. Just how much energy do IT functions account for? At Harvard, for example, Sustainability Office Director Heather Henriksen says that IT functions--from data centers to network equipment to desktops and laptops--make up between 13 and 25 percent of the institution’s peak electrical load. “Research computing needs are set to double in five to six years under business as usual,” she adds.

Saving the environment isn’t just a goal at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. It’s a way of life. Concerned about its impact on the environment, the college is taking aggressive steps to reduce its energy consumption.


IN THE LATE 1990s, WE WORKED WITH A YOUNG woman who had a very strong focus on environmental action. At the time, it was the rare student who placed her own environmentalism and that of prospective colleges so squarely in the forefront of her admissions process.