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Sustainability

Every year, the sustainability staff at UC Davis hosts a celebration to sum up its Meatless Monday campaign. Students learn about their impact, and, best of all, get to indulge in some free vegan ice cream.

Making dietary changes isn’t just a good idea for staying healthy—it’s a way of going green, too. Colleges and universities are quickly taking notice. By buying local and promoting eating less meat, they’re helping students change the way they think about food in their dining halls and across campus, for the health of not only the campus community, but the planet.

Campus water use is high, particularly in residence halls, at a time when The U.S. Drought Monitor (operating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) estimates that as much as 60 percent of the contiguous United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Thirty-seven percent of that area was at drought levels as of April, an increase from 27 percent a year ago.
That's why it is more important than ever to conserve this precious natural resource, and colleges and universities are stepping up to save.

Every action starts with an idea. That’s why, for the seventh annual green issue, the University Business editorial team decided to share some great ideas that have resulted in changes in the way campuses think about food, water, energy consumption, and solar energy. Whether by helping members of their communities realize the impact of the food they eat, or reminding them to carry a reusable water bottle, institutions are seeing huge reductions in their environmental impact. And it all started with an idea. Read the rest of our stories to get the green wheels turning.

ith the costs of higher education continuing to soar, many colleges and universities are looking for innovative ways to lower expenses, while simultaneously pursuing their long-term sustainability goals. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is proving that both objectives are, indeed, achievable.

SPSU

Advancement officials at Southern Polytechnic State University (Ga.) had both practical and aspirational reasons to reconsider how it ran its faculty/staff annual giving campaign. From a practical standpoint, designing and printing packets filled with a promotional postcard, sheets listing accounts and giving incentives, a pledge card, a return envelope, and labels for each of the university’s nearly 850 faculty and staff was costly. Not to mention, printing, stuffing, and distributing these packets took valuable human resources department time.

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.

When colleges and universities start assessing their carbon footprint, the IT department is likely to come under fire by virtue of having oversight of much of the energy consumption on campus. Just how much energy do IT functions account for? At Harvard, for example, Sustainability Office Director Heather Henriksen says that IT functions--from data centers to network equipment to desktops and laptops--make up between 13 and 25 percent of the institution’s peak electrical load. “Research computing needs are set to double in five to six years under business as usual,” she adds.

Mark Edlen, a Portland developer and businessman with Gerding Edlen, sees the commitment to sustainability as both a political movement and a business strategy, as noted in an April 14, 2010 article in The Oregonian. In explaining his new business approach, Edlen said, "The big thing for my generation was Vietnam and civil rights. For the young people of today, it's their environmental footprint." He is convinced the green economy is one of the country's primary economic engines. In his case, this means sustainable building has arrived as a viable business strategy.

When budgets are limited and staff time is tight,effectively tracking and reporting on sustainability projects can be challenging. As of late April, about 135 institutions had begun using the new Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) to streamline sustainability work, increase coordination, keep information in order, and allow leaders to assess progress.

Richard Cook spends much of his time listening to college and university presidents ask questions about sustainability. Can we afford this? What if my trustees balk? Is global climate change exaggerated? Is carbon neutrality even possible? Cook responds with patience and knowledge about the impact of harmful greenhouse gases, about clean energy, and about why it makes fiscal sense to go green. "I liken it to the moonshot," says the former president of Allegheny College (Pa.).

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