We are running out of time. While our public policy makers equivocate and avoid the topic of climate change, the window of opportunity for salvaging a livable planet for our children and grandchildren is rapidly closing. The way forward is clear, yet for many confrontation-averse academics, the path seems impassable. It requires action that’s unnatural to the scientifically initiated: fight to regain territory occupied by climate change deniers.
The University of Connecticut ranked at the top of a list of the most sustainable campuses in the world, according to results of the University of Indonesia’s GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities, released this month. Four other American universities ranked in the top 10: Northeastern University (Mass.); the University of California, Los Angeles; The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of California, Merced.
When Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa, called for an increased focus on sustainability in the university’s operations as a key strategic initiative on Earth Day 2008, her ambitious plan presented a serious challenge.
Two years ago, Sierra College (Calif.) installed CALMAC IceBank thermal energy storage tanks to help control energy costs. The tanks create ice overnight when energy in the state is generated using natural gas, and the ice is then used for cooling during the day. Michael Kane, director of the energy program at Sierra, says the three tanks on campus save from $5,000 to $10,000 per month. But what Sierra is doing differently is ensuring its energy storage looks nice, too. Why not have students use it as a canvas?
Institutions of higher learning around the globe are turning green. They are embracing sustainability for many reasons, some of them economic, some of them because their student body and faculty are requesting it, and some of them just because it is the right thing to do. There is now even a “College Sustainability Report Card” (published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute) which lists those schools that have joined the green bandwagon and demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and is designed to give guidance to those institutions considering going green.
Temple University (Pa.) is the latest campus to install Solar Dok picnic tables from EnerFusion. The tables, which are made from recycled plastic and cost $10,495 each (plus shipping), have built-in solar panels that provide a place to recharge numerous types of mobile devices while socializing.
There were no ribbon cuttings to mark the opening of the largest fuel cell operating on any Northeast college campus. Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Central Connecticut State University President Jack Miller instead used a pair of wire cutters to snip a large power supply cord during a recent “power cutting” ceremony to recognize installation of the 1.4 megawatt fuel cell power plant.
The University of Utah will launch a fleet of electric buses this fall to shuttle some 47,000 students, staff, and administrators around its 1,500-acre campus. Forty buses, similar to the one pictured here, have been ordered from BYD, a Chinese company that is the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles. The drawback to electric buses in the past has been battery weight. But the BYD buses use a much lighter rechargeable battery, so they can carry more passengers.