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Articles: Sustainability

Student-run campus organizations are partnering with food service providers to get leftover food to those who need it. (Photo: Food Recovery Network/James Souder, UMD Recovery)

More than 22 million pounds of uneaten food is thrown away on college campuses each year, according to Food Recovery Network, a student-driven nonprofit dedicated to reducing food waste and hunger at higher education institutions.

A single college student generates an average 142 pounds of food waste per year, according to Recycling Works, a Massachusetts recycling assistance program.

The first new academic building added to Trinity’s historic Washington, D.C. campus in more than half a century, provides much needed instructional space for the school’s growing nursing and health programs as well as a step into modern architecture.

The WaterHub reduces by 146 million gallons the annual amount that Emory University drains off the Atlanta municipal water system.

The landmark WaterHub at Emory University in Atlanta is an eco-friendly water recycling plant that cleanses 400,000 gallons per day of wastewater for purposes other than drinking.

Harnessing biomimicry processes, WaterHub uses beneficial bacteria, microorganisms, plants and hydroponic technology to treat black water, gray water and stormwater for later use in steam and chiller plants, as well as for toilet flushing in a number of residence halls.

This fall, travel funded by the student government at Whitman College in Washington state will be taxed based on emissions generated in getting to and from the destination.

Passed in February as a two-year pilot program, the rule is likely the first of its kind imposed by a student government at a U.S. college.

Students traveling as part of a ski club or flying to New York City for a journalism conference, for example, will calculate the cost of their emissions, but not be charged directly.

What’s the biggest misconception administrators outside the facilities department tend to have related to heating and cooling campus buildings?

Stanford’s solar solution: Joe Stagner, executive director of sustainability and energy management at Stanford, has led the university through a solar power-based strategy. By 2030, 75 percent of the university buildings will be powered by solar.

How colleges are getting creative about energy supply to save money on heating and cooling, and to boost building comfort for occupants

Since 2007, U.S. institutions of higher education have primarily reduced carbon emissions by increasing the use of natural gas. (Click graphic to enlarge)

Despite higher ed’s progress in reducing energy use and making facilities more sustainable, it turns out that the biggest factor in the drop has been due to a change from coal and oil to natural gas, a cleaner-burning fuel.

Between 2007 and 2014, emissions per square foot have declined 13 percent, found a recent study of energy use and carbon emissions data at 343 U.S. colleges and universities from Sightlines, a university facilities cost-analysis provider, and the University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute.

A risk of fire may be less dangerous than the chemicals used to prevent it, and Harvard is adapting accordingly.

The Healthy Green Campus project—an initiative to improve student health through sustainable practices—grew out of a collaboration between Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers from the university’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, and the Silent Spring Institute.

Yale will analyze the cost of carbon at its Peabody Museum of Natural History and 19 other campus buildings to help guide other institutions. (Photo: Patrick Lynch/Yale)

Energy conservation at Yale now goes beyond lower utility bills. The institution broke new ground in higher ed recently with a pilot program to calculate the wider cost of carbon use at 20 of its New Haven, Connecticut, buildings, including the well-known Peabody Museum and the president’s office.

The point of pollution is just one cost, says Ryan Laemel, Yale’s project coordinator. “We pay downstream in the form of added healthcare costs and rising food prices due to declining agricultural productivity, for example.”

North Carolina State University's solar tree gives students another option to recharge.

North Carolina State University has installed near its library a 16-foot-tall solar tree where students and others can charge laptops, phones and tablets.

Comprising a 1,500-watt solar array atop a recycled steel base, the tree is designed to withstand 140 mph winds and is the first of three planned for this area of campus.

The Duke University Research Drive Garage earned LEED-certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2010.

Educational institutions lead the way in sustainable development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says Paul Wessel, executive director of the Green Parking Council.

And even though the U.S. Green Building Council stopped LEED-certifying parking structures in 2011, the Green Parking Council is out to prove that garages can still be environmentally friendly.

Adding green and sustainable elements to facilities during new construction and renovations is no longer an option for colleges and universities—it’s the expectation.

The push for campuswide sustainability and a fresh commitment to student health drive institutions to rethink their dining strategies. This might mean buying more food from local farmers and better educating students about their dietary habits.

Along those lines, Stanford University is the first higher ed institution in the nation to earn the United States Healthful Food Council’s REAL certification—an acronym for Responsible (nutrition), Epicurean (preparation), Agricultural (sourcing) and Leadership.

A biomass plant opened on Middlebury’s campus in 2009, marking a significant step toward the college’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2016.

Fossil fuel and private prison divestment may make the biggest headlines when it comes to how colleges invest endowment funds—but it’s not actually that common a practice. A growing number of colleges and universities now seek bigger impacts—and substantial financial returns—with a strategy known as “ESG.”

With irreversible climate change megatrends conspiring against us and rising levels of consumption, our Nation’s fresh water resources are in peril. For the future the preponderance of scientific, agricultural, and renewable energy discoveries will happen in water born environments.

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