Remember when college campuses were collections of old, drafty, poorly heated and hard-to-maintain buildings? No longer. In recent years a wave of green construction and refitting has swept across U.S. campuses.
The movement is hardly a fad. Serious environmental objectives for the green-building wave include increasing efficiency to lower pollution as well as costs, reducing waste and recycling what’s left.
The trend has other higher-order benefits. Ann Rappaport, a lecturer at Tufts School of Engineering who writes about climate change and universities, believes ?the value of campus greening goes well beyond resources saved; greening generates interest and invites members of the academic community to think differently about societal values, goods consumed and the infrastructure for shelter and mobility, thus raising questions about how human needs can be met in new ways.” In short, green building is becoming an essential part of higher education.
Examples blanket the county. Princeton Review recently published a ?Guide to 353 Green Colleges.? Among the criteria in its ratings are:
- Whether the school encourages alternatives to single-passenger automobile use by students.
- The percentage of food expenditures that go toward local, organic, or otherwise environmentally preferable food.
- Percentage of new buildings that are certified LEED Silver or comparable.
- The school?s overall waste-diversion rate.
- Whether the school has a sustainability-focused major, minor, or concentration.
- Percentage of graduates that were required to take at least one course in a field related to sustainability to complete their degree.
- Whether a school has produced a publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventory and adopted a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- The percentage of the school?s energy consumption, including heating/cooling and electrical, that is derived from renewable resources (this definition included ?green tags? but not nuclear or large scale hydro- power).
- Whether the school employs a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer.
The Top 10 institutions on the Princeton Review list were:
- Lewis & Clark College
- Green Mountain College
- University of California at Santa Barbara
- State University of New York at Stony Brook University
- Dickinson College
- Cornell University
- American University
- College of the Atlantic
- Middlebury College
- The University of Vermont
A good example of the green movement can be found at North Carolina?s Elon University, a liberal arts university with a mission to develop global citizens. The 620-acre campus is itself a botanical garden, and in late March, Elon received its 25th LEED certification. (For more on Elon’s initiatives.)
If you’re working toward a LEED credential, or just considering it, it should be encouraging to know there is a growing green business on America?s campuses.