|Nations colleges look toward a greener
By John Byrne
While much of the nation is buried in snow, many college campuses are actually
turning green the verdure of green environmental policy. And despite the Bush Administrations
reticence to sign on to international environmental treaties like the Kyoto protocol, enthusiasm
over environmentally friendly policies seems to be taking campuses by storm.
Those sorts of initiatives are really moving forward, largely driven by students, said
University of Colorado at Boulders Environmental Center director Will Toor, who has followed
the green campus movement closely. On green energy, I think things have really exploded in
the last few years.
Some schools like Brown University and the University of Colorado at Boulder have
adopted wide-ranging schemes to incorporate environmental considerations into the overall design
of the schools campus. Boulders plan, first adopted in 2000 and revised annually, seeks
to create a climate-friendly campus, allow growth without increasing traffic and ensure green consumption
and disposal policies. This years master plan update seeks to address manifold issues, from
decreasing the number of pages students print by charging for paper, to creating a permanent environmental
What weve seen in the last several years is that the campus administration has been
developing much more of a commitment in considering environmental factors in decision-making,
said Toor. Im hopeful that well see much more consideration of sustainability
on the campus planning process on all sorts of issues, from green buildings to growing without
increasing automobile traffic.
Brown has had a campus-wide greening campaign in effect for more than ten years. Recent changes
to college policy include reducing the water flow in showerheads, the wattage in stockroom lamps
and the amount of virgin paper used in university publications.
At the vanguard, however, may be campuses looking to minimize their dependence on fossil fuels.
Against the backdrop of rising oil prices and strident calls from environmentalists to disavow
greenhouse emissions, these institutions are taking bold and often expensive strides.
The costs, though, dont always upset the ends. At the University of North Carolina, for example,
students voted to raise their own fees $3 in order to fund the universitys use of wind power.
Connecticut College students petitioned their administration last year to raise fees by $25 in
order to facilitate more green policies. In January, Connecticut College administrators decided
to purchase 22 percent of their power renewable energy certificates. According to the Environmental
Protection Agency, their purchase represents the largest investment of any college or university.
We have now negotiated an arrangement that will have a more positive impact on the environment,
said Connecticut College Vice President for Administration Ulysses Hammond.
Philadelphia-based Drexel University is also enjoying the benefits of wind power. Through a local
green energy marketer, it has purchased the energy power from a 220-foot wind turbine to meet part
of its energy needs. Another triad of universities the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania
State University and Carnegie Mellon have done likewise.
Many campuses are also looking to green architecture, which incorporates long-lasting sustainable
design, as well as versatility and materials which have low ecological impact, as a permanent feature
in new construction projects.
Taking a nod from the U.S. Green Building Councils new architectural guidelines, some schools,
including Stanford University, have adopted design standards that will mandate environmental benchmarks
in new construction. Many, like the University of California system and a handful of liberal arts
schools, are considering new standards.
I think were increasingly seeing people looking at the fact that there are now national
guidelines, Toor said. A lot of folks are looking at how their campus building standards
line up with those.
Other campuses have taken more amorphous, department-specific approaches..
Bates College, for instance, has invested in holistically greening its dining services. From its
locally-purchased organic crops to its 100 percent recycled napkins, the Lewiston, Maine. liberal
arts school has invested in a thorough revamp of its entire program, seeking to improve food quality
while concurrently reducing waste.
Environmental- and community-sensitive purchasing have been a hallmark of Bates efforts.
The college has turned its eyes on products that involve less waste and are recyclable.
People are starting to understand that its cost effective to recycle, Bates College
Dining Services Director Christine Schwartz said. Our waste disposal costs have decreased
by at least half.
Many of the changes, Schwartz said, have come from employees trained to envision an environmentally
sound workplace. All of dining services is training in recycling.
Once you change the culture of the workforce, their ideas begin to just stream out,
she said. Theyre thinking about ways that they can be more efficient, which leads to
how we can protect the environment.