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Alternative Energy

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.

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.

Move over LEED, there’s a new certification in town. It’s not just buildings getting a green stamp of approval these days—events are, too. Colleges and universities across the country have begun implementing “certified green events programs” to limit the impact campus events have on the environment.

Albert Einstein had this to say about problem-solving: "You can never solve a problem on the same level on which it was created." In other words, the solution lies at a higher level. That is certainly the truth for many efforts in higher education, where overcoming administrative challenges? that are holding back student or institutional success or service is often about reaching for innovative solutions.

In higher education, sustainability and green design have moved beyond buzzwords to become real practice. Programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, and the College Sustainability Report Card are commonplace measures of an institution’s commitment to sustainability.

Electricity. It turns on the lights, powers the smart boards, and runs the computers that are all vital to a modern campus. Acquiring that electricity can be both an expensive proposition and a key part of an environmental action plan. With the size and variety of buildings on campus, some colleges and universities have their own power stations on campus to ease their dependence on public utility companies. Most have their own microgrids to distribute power generated from any source. Now campus leaders are looking into giving those microgrids an education.

Signatories to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, as of mid-May. --ACUPCC annual report

Portion of current campus sustainability positions created in 2007 or later. --AASHE Higher Education Sustainability Staffing Survey

Amount of carbon dioxide reduced by ACUPCC institutions. --2010 ACUPCC annual report

The green movement focuses on four factors: clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, and the conservation and reduction of waste materials. Information technology offices at institutions can exercise great control in energy efficiency benefitting not only the institution, but the surrounding community as well.

Karli Green, Senior Product Manager, Campus Management:

"Pilot programs at many institutions show that you can save money and the environment at the same time.

There was a time, and not all that long ago, when many organizations looked at energy costs as a fixed cost of doing business over which they had little control. But rising energy prices, coupled with a challenging economic environment and an increasing focus on carbon reduction, have grabbed American leaders by the shoulders and shaken them into a greater state of consciousness when it comes to energy.

Colleges and universities essentially operate as self-contained small cities, providing huge amounts of energy to its campuses, in increasing amounts, all day, every day. The higher education sector owns and operates tens of thousands of buildings, owns millions of acres of land and spends nearly $10 billion each year on energy.