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Going Green While Saving Green: Higher Education Sustainability Stars

For many colleges and universities, sustainability is becoming a unifying thread in the campus fabric. UB selected the following 10 institutions as models for their efforts to respect the environment and the communities that surround them in economically feasible ways.
University Business, Jun 2006

Key Accomplishment:

Making a systemwide commitment

Behind the Scenes: With 400,000 students and 42,000 faculty and staff across 23 campuses, Cal State soaks in considerable resources. But its leaders also make efforts to reduce energy usage and dependence. In September 2005, the Board of Trustees approved a revised energy policy that sought a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption by the 2009-2010 fiscal year, on top of a 15 percent reduction already in place. The policy also aims to double Cal State's self-generated energy supply over the next decade, and have the system receive at least 20 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010.

Key Accomplishment: Meeting LEED

Behind the Scenes: For Carnegie Mellon, the commitment to build in accordance with the US Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards is a step above the crowd: All new construction and significant renovations aim for LEED Silver designation at the Pittsburgh school. The fruits of this commitment have been seen most notably in New House, the nation's first LEED-certified campus residence hall, which opened in 2003. The $12.5 million building uses 31 percent less energy than other non-"green" buildings.

Key Accomplishment: Purchasing green

Behind the Scenes: Like all schools on this list, Duke has taken many steps toward sustainability. Its Green Purchasing Policy, however, stands out. Launched by student efforts, Duke adopted the environmentally preferable purchasing guidelines in 2004, aiming to work with purchasers to give preference to more environmentally friendly products and services when quality and cost performance are equal or superior. With leadership from a green purchasing specialist in the Procurement Services office, 38 percent of Duke's purchases are now of Earthsaver products (up from 11 percent last year). When toner runs out in campus printers, it is replaced with recycled cartridges-saving nearly $300,000 in the past year.

Key Accomplishment:

Transforming a campus

Behind the Scenes: The Harvard Green Campus Initiative has transformed the way plans are crafted and decisions are made at the university. In the six years since it was created, the initiative has grown into a $1.1 million business that generates more than $5 million in annual savings and has led to a reduction of more than 60 million pounds in annual greenhouse gas emissions. Leaders of the initiative see organizational change at the heart of their work; in other words, new practices must jibe with limitations on time, money, politics, and other complexities. Under this perspective, efforts continue to grow: The Green Campus Initiative now has 14 full-time professional staff and a $6 million revolving loan fund.

Key Accomplishment:

Collaborating for change

Behind the Scenes: Tufts was the first institution of higher education in the country to develop an environmental policy statement, and in 1990 officially convened an international conference at which the "Talloires Declaration"-the first official statement on environmental sustainability in higher education-was drafted and signed. Since then, more than 300 IHE leaders have signed the declaration and the university has developed its own commitments to reducing emissions by 7 percent by 2010. In April 2005, undergraduates at Tufts voted in support of a yearly $20 fee to pay for wind power credits.

Key Accomplishment:

Undertaking an outstanding retrofit

Behind the Scenes: One to get out in front of the pack on sustainability issues, UBC launched a campuswide program in 2002 to optimize infrastructure for smarter energy use. Physical upgrades and retrofits led to $3 million in annual savings, a 30 percent reduction in energy use, and an 11 percent reduction in GHG emissions from buildings. UBC has saved more than 58 million sheets of paper and 76.3 million kilowatt hours of energy-plus $11.3 million. Because of the retrofit, UBC has met its Kyoto Protocol targets six years ahead of schedule.

Key Accomplishment: Sustainability from scratch

Behind the Scenes: A brand-new campus, UC Merced was designed and built with sustainability in mind. Every building is designed and constructed to meet LEED Silver certification. Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey loves to talk about the value of her school's sustainability efforts. Among items on her next steps list: Working out a way to garner the plentiful California sun to help power Merced's campus, and negotiating with the national Green Buildings Council to develop LEED categories that better fit college facilities.

Key Accomplishment: Grasping wind energy

Behind the Scenes: Named one of 10 Green Power Partners by the EPA Green Power Partnership, Penn obtains nearly 30 percent of its total energy through wind power, buying more megawatt hours than any other U.S. institution of higher education. The school tripled its wind-energy purchase this year, funding its program through savings from an aggressive energy-conservation program. The school's commitment to wind energy has made it possible for its partners to construct a new wind farm in rural Pennsylvania.

Key Accomplishment:

Institutionalizing environmental concerns

Behind the Scenes: In 2004, the university articulated its aim to become the leading environmental university in the United States. The university's Environmental Council interpreted that aim through commitments in academics, operations, culture, and accountability. Projects on campus often evolve from student and faculty work, bolstered by the university's small grants program that gives $10,000 a year to promising environmental initiatives. Through the EcoReps program, students on campus are paid to teach their peers about recycling, energy conservation, and other ways to respect the world around them.

Key Accomplishment:

Setting admirable targets

Behind the Scenes: Yale has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels, a task that will be accomplished by 2020 through a combination of energy conservation, investments in alternative energy, offsets, and behavior change. Yale is in the process of coming up with comparable targets and implementation strategies for waste management, design and construction, transportation systems, and procurement strategies. Energy dollars saved lead to further investment in greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies


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