You are here

Articles: Sustainability

A pair of draft horses often plows the campus farm at Sterling College. Sterling does have tractors—its agriculture students have to learn how to use all varieties of equipment—but the energy-saving horses are just one step in the Vermont school’s extensive and award-winning sustainable dining program.

The farm produces about 20 percent of the food consumed in the college’s dining hall.

At seven stories tall and 247,000 square feet, the Science Education and Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia is one of the largest buildings devoted exclusively to scientific research in the city’s region.

With several high-tech learning spaces, the center promotes innovation while fostering collaboration.

Institutions have implemented more innovative waste management practices since a major stream of recycling revenue dried up.

For many colleges and universities, there used to be gold in garbage. Or, at least, there was some revenue to go along with the recycling stream. But two years ago, the whole landfill landscape changed.

In the 1990s, Al Gore warned the public about the consequences of global warming. Though Gore may not have been the father of campus recycling nor the Internet, he and other like minded politicians placed the environmental public policy ball in play within the executive and legislative branches of Federal and State governments.

More than two thirds of administrators surveyed say they expect to start or complete a major renovation project in 2015. (Click to enlarge)

In many ways, 2015 will look a lot like 2014 with respect to facilities. But there are trends impacting the creation and use of physical space on virtually every college and university campus. Institutions will be curbing new construction activity, getting creative about funding, paying more attention to overdue maintenance, and planning more for mixed-use facilities.

At the drop of a hat, we run down to the grocery store to grab food and water - never thinking these consumables are actually vulnerable to the threat of agroterrorism. Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, put it this way "For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.”

Taught by Jennie Stephens, associate professor of environmental science and policy, Clark University, Mass.

Through The Pizza Box Composting Project, six bright green dumpsters with a pizza painted on them have been placed near North Carolina State's residence halls.

The order: large pizza, extra green.

To increase composting efforts on campus, North Carolina State University has been focusing on the proper disposal of a popular item used by students: pizza boxes.

More institutions are creating energy conversation plans that cover the entire campus rather than just individual buildings.

Conservation on campus is about saving money and electricity at a time of lagging state funding and soaring global demand for power. Colleges with successful energy sustainability programs have combined mechanical improvements with campaigns to get their communities to adopt new behaviors.

Back in September, the Crough Center at The Catholic University of America (D.C.) became the first building in the world to be LEED certified by students as part of a formal course.

Developed in 2011 by Patricia Andrasik, assistant professor of architecture, the LEED Lab course not only teaches students about green building codes and projects, but certifies them in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, or EB: O+M.

Mercer University Bears football fans who enter the Macon, Ga., campus through the Stadium Drive entrance now pass the school’s new fountain and surrounding rain garden. The garden, which is 1.5 acres, is not only attractively landscaped—it serves a dual purpose by collecting rainwater runoff from nearby parking lots.


The former tension pond near Mercer’s football stadium had been built to code to control runoff but was unattractive and occupied a lot of space, says James Netherton, executive vice president for administration and finance.

The University of Baltimore set clear sustainability goals when it began planning its new law school building.

“It had to be [LEED] Platinum, but it also had to be an environment that would be exciting for staff and students to spend days and late nights studying in,” says Nebeye Sertsu, vice president for facilities management and capital planning. “We embedded in the design how we interact with students, how we represent the city and how we talk about our campus to prospective students.”

Higher education institutions can venerate or perpetuate hallowed traditions. Institutions have had a reputation for infrastructure conservatism. William Rees’ 2003 article “Impeding Sustainability? The Ecological Footprint of Higher Education” states “the real challenge for higher education is to help articulate an alternative life-sustaining worldview.” Today, campuses lead the transformation to sustainability, demonstrating its value nationwide.

"There is no magic wand that can resolve our problems. The solution rests with our work and discipline."
—Jose Eduardo Dos Santos

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture