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Articles: Sustainability

A 20-year agreement to bring solar power from North Carolina to D.C. could become a model for how large urban organizations can meet energy needs by tapping offsite solar energy.

The partnership, involving The George Washington University, American University and The George Washington University Hospital, is the latest step the two universities are taking toward carbon neutrality, which both have pledged to reach.

UC Davis' $8.5 million biodigester will provide an annual 5.6 million kilowatt hours to the campus

Food, yard and animal waste at University of California, Davis is being converted into energy by a biodigester that’s the largest of its kind on a college campus.

The $8.5 million facility, unveiled on Earth Day, will provide an annual 5.6 million kilowatt hours to the campus. That’s enough to power 800 California homes, says Sid England, assistant vice chancellor of environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Stephen Madigosky is a professor of environmental science at Widener University in Chester, Pa.

I live in a world of lectures, faculty meetings and final exams. For my environmental science students and me at Widener University in Chester, Pa., however, it’s also a world of hands-on research on a butterfly farm in Costa Rica, or experiential learning in the rainforests of Peru.

This world didn’t include university food service contracts, price points, or product launches until my chance meeting with an alumnus who shared a passion for environmental sustainability. That meeting led to a simple, delicious cup of coffee.

Repurposing an old campus building may not have the wow factor that comes with creating a new facility from scratch. But colleges and universities driven by financial, environmental and sentimental forces sometimes find rejuvenating the buildings they already have is a more practical solution.

Today’s up-and-coming millennials are taking different learning style and lifestyle trajectories than our country’s one-career, suburban dwelling baby boomers. Young 20- and 30-somethings have flocked to metropolitan centers seeking upscale amenities, edgy culture and a more sustainable way of living and learning. They are attracted by underground music venues, microbreweries, artist galleries utilizing nontoxic materials, and Wi-Fi cafes that serve free trade coffee.

Colleges and universities nationwide marked the 10th annual Campus Sustainability Day in October with events and discussions that reflect on the success of the sustainability movement in higher education.

Rob Thompson, director of academic and core applications, Wayne State University

More is not always better, as Wayne State University discovered. Like many universities, Wayne State relied on a dual system where applicants submitted some information online, and other information using paper forms. The result was a clumsy and redundant process.

University of Dayton freshmen pledge to ride with two wheels rather than drive with four.

One hundred freshman at The University of Dayton were given bikes this fall after the students signed a pledge not to bring a car to campus during their first two years at the Ohio school.

What’s one way to please students, engage an entire campus community, and save money all while helping protect the environment?

The answer is greening sports programs, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in its new report, “Collegiate Game Changers.”

Some 600 sustainability-related classes and a 15 percent reduction in water use over the past several years pushed the University of Connecticut to the top of the Sierra Club’s 2013 list of greenest campuses.

UConn also has cut 2,640 tons of carbon dioxide emissions within the last two years by retrofitting 13 buildings. And a quarter of the food served in its trayless dining halls is processed within 100 miles of campus, with some ingredients grown at the university, according the rankings.

There’s not a tree that grows in the northeast that can’t be found on the campus of Union College in upstate New York, the manager of the institution’s grounds says.

But ladybugs and praying mantises—not insecticides—are the main tools the small college in Schenectady uses to protect a lush arboreal asset that some say helps prospective students pick Union over competing institutions.

Armstrong Atlantic State Univesity's Learning Commons is a satellite library with spaces for students to use technology and collaborate

Edna Holmes Hall, a five-story residential living community at Lewis & Clark College (Ore.) last fall, is designed to use  40 percent less water and 26 percent less energy than a typical residential building.

Wider availability and greater affordability of green building materials are a result of greater demand

Colby College's biomass plant.

Along with Colby, which has just over 1,800 students, College of the Atlantic (Maine), Green Mountain College (Vt.), and University of Minnesota at Morris have achieved carbon neutrality

energy efficient solar panel

Increasing numbers of colleges and universities are making a commitment to foster sustainability on campus. This strategy aligns well with university missions that include public service, thought leadership and pioneering new technologies. But at the end of the day, the most compelling reason is financial. Energy makes up only a small percentage of a university’s operating budget (about 3.5 percent on average), but in terms of raw dollars, America’s colleges and universities spend almost $7 billion in energy and utilities.

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