Each year, millions of students enroll in colleges and universities across the United States. They choose their institution for all sorts of reasons that include academic programs, reputation, cost, geography, family history and even excellence in sports. Increasingly, however, students are also looking into whether colleges and universities walk the walk when it comes to embracing sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. This is no small matter for these institutions as even a small college, let alone a big state university, involves thousands of students, staff and faculty members spread out over dozens of buildings and scores of acres.
There are lots of ways prospective students can check how well any institution is doing, although sometimes various rating systems are a little hard to compare. WellWell has taken a slightly different tack. We’ve pulled together examples of what some schools are doing in terms of applying sustainable practices. There are lots more examples out there, but these snapshots may help provide some guidance on what schools are or should be doing regardless of size, location or reputation.
UW is focused on clean energy. With this in mind, it reports getting about 90 percent of its electricity from hydropower and less than 1 percent from coal. On the food side, every egg at UW is organic and cage-free, while the university tries to source at least half the food served on campus from small local producers. As a member of the Northwest Product Stewardship Council, it also works to promote compostable or recyclable packaging.
The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill is not just focused on academics and basketball. It supports sustainable practices through the construction of energy-efficient buildings and retrofitting older buildings with environmentally friendly services. The university reportedly supports green transportation initiatives and reducing the use of water.
Arizona State launched its signature “Carbon Project” in 2018 to reduce its carbon emissions through planting trees and encouraging a university-wide transition to car-sharing and electric vehicles. It also enacted a fair-trade pledge to rely on products manufactured via sustainable practices.
UC Davis has sought to integrate and support sustainability throughout its curriculum. This effort has taken the form of establishing a student farm and having the university’s West Village become a net-zero energy community. Around 25 campus buildings have been certified “green” by LEED. UC Davis also uses the Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester, invented by a faculty member, which has the capacity to convert 100,000 pounds of daily waste into usable energy.
Dickinson may be a relatively small private college in Pennsylvania, but it boasts its own renewable energy facilities. This centers on a biofuel plant that also recycles edible oil to generate energy. The institution aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by the year 2030.
Stanford is recognized as a leader in sustainable practices. It also offers about 400 sustainability courses, alongside an interdisciplinary masters in sustainable science and practice. Its efforts in the last 15-20 years have also resulted in Stanford reducing its landfill waste by more than 25 percent, its domestic water by almost half, and greenhouse gas emissions by close to 75 percent.
Amherst is reported to be the first university in the U.S. to divest its endowment of direct fossil fuel holdings. It is also committed to using only local, sustainable food sources. Beyond this, Amherst is home to the School of Earth and Sustainability, which provides students and faculty members with a hub to study sustainability and environmental sciences.
The Ohio State supports sustainable energy practices via its partnership with an Ohio wind farm, which provides about 20 percent of the university’s energy needs. A proponent of various green initiatives, Ohio State has also pledged to cut energy usage by about 25 percent in the next decade through the construction of green buildings and programs like the Green Buckeye Certification, which rewards labs and offices that contribute to energy efficiency.
Can you cite a college or university embracing cutting-edge sustainable practices? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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