Why Campuses Are Going Green
For the most part, the best way to solve a problem is to first become educated about it. College campuses across the globe are becoming breeding grounds for novel solutions and small changes to positively impact the world.
The approach is both top-down and grassroots, with students promoting and urging campuses to take measures to reduce their carbon footprint. As such, there are many environmental projects for college students.
Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash
What Is Campus Sustainability Month
“Hundreds of higher education institutions celebrate Campus Sustainability Month to inspire students to get involved with sustainability efforts on campus. Each institution decides for itself how it wants to participate, but celebrations typically include a variety of educational events and service projects. This year, many celebrations will include a focus on civic engagement and participation in the November elections.”
From The Experts: How Three Colleges Are Leading By Example
Alexis Reyes and Prabhakar Shrestha
ReyesIn 2014, Pomona’s president and board of trustees pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 . Our latest sustainability action plan, SAVE, outlines specific strategies and metrics for achieving CN2030. For example, because two-thirds of our carbon footprint comes from energy usage, we aimed to reduce electricity and gas usage by 30% in 2020 compared to fiscal year 2014 levels.
To keep us on track, we produce annual reports and make recommendations for improvement. We have also committed to leading energy-efficient technologies like installing real-time energy meters in every campus building and retrofitting our most energy-intensive buildings through a $2.5 million grant from the California Energy Commission.
ShresthaAs Nebraska’s land-grant, flagship university, UNL serves as a primary intellectual center, providing leadership through quality education and the generation of new knowledge. Many of the university’s faculty, staff, and students engage in teaching and research regarding societal issues like climate change.
We are committed not only to educating fellow citizens about climate change but also preparing communities around the world to mitigate this change, adapt to the uncertain future, and build resilient communities. Research, teaching, and community service are central to our effort on this front.
Mona Becker of McDaniel College offers additional advice for students who want to get involved:
Tips To Help Students Go Green
If you arent already green — or even if you are — college is a good time to develop more eco-friendly practices. Sustainability is a learned behavior but it can sometimes feel too abstract. I think a lot of students are interested in this issue, so thats not the problem. I think many feel overwhelmed and just dont know where to plug in to do something about it, says Angie De Soto. She likes to start students off by taking them through some of their regular routines. For example, she says, Think about where the food you eat comes from this can be the first step toward a more sustainable lifestyle. How much processing went into making that food? Or are you using a styrofoam to-go container? Even if the container were compostable, if you dont put it in a composting bin its actually worse than styrofoam in terms of the greenhouse gases it will emit when it breaks down.
Here are some good and relatively easy ways to begin or continue the practice of being green:
The Sustainability Guide For College Students On A Budget
Wondering how to go green at college while youre on a strict budget? We have a few sustainability tips for you a hundred of them, to be exact!
As youre learning how to be sustainable in college and how to encourage positive change, forming simple habits now can not only help you as an adult but also influence other college students around you. If colleges hope to fight climate change, pollution, and so many other issues facing the earth, you and other students are the gatekeepers to those sustainability efforts. On your college campus, you can both learn and spearhead environmental change!
This list is meant to be a green guide for everyday living for students and also provide ideas for how to effect positive policy changes on campus.
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Ecosystems And Human Impact
Stony Brook University offers this degree at the undergraduate level. Learners explore interactions between humans and natural environments, studying fields like biology, ecology, and geography. Undergraduates complete research courses, internships, and field courses to gain a hands-on understanding of the human impact on ecosystems.
Join A Nonprofit Dedicated To Environmental Conservation
This goes beyond volunteering at events run by an official environmental organization. If you join a nonprofit environmental agency, you are dedicating yourself to that cause and organization by paying fees, becoming an official member, and committing yourself to aid in their efforts.
If you really want to make a difference, though, you have to do more than just become a member and pay the fees. You need to be an active member and participate in their events, protests, and conservation initiatives on a regular basis.
Also, note that you wont be getting compensated for your time and efforts even though youre an official member of the organization. Youll still be doing mostly volunteer work, but just remember that it is for a great cause planet Earth!
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What Does It Mean For A College To Be Sustainable
Institutions of higher education know the environment is changing, and they are in a position to do something about it. If youre looking for a sustainable college, there are certain criteria to consider, from their basic sustainability plan to their degree programs. You can also look to those outside the college, such as the government or certain professional associations, to determine whether the school meets the guidelines that determine what sustainability on campus looks like.
Keep in mind that not all schools will have everything on this list, but a school serious about sustainability will have most of them.
The school has a sustainability plan.
When it comes to doing things differently, youve got to start somewhere. Many colleges do that by creating a sustainability plan. This plan lays out the intentions of the college in advancing climate initiatives not only across the campus at large, but among individuals departments, buildings, and other areas of the campus as well. This might include working toward changes in transportation, food services, water usage, electricity options, and more. The Harvard University Sustainability Plan is a good example of the different ways schools can do this.
The school has been rated by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
The school is an EPA Energy Star campus.
The school has dedicated an area of its website to sustainability measures.
Campus initiatives further the cause.
Walk Cycle And Take Public Transport
Driving by car or plane can be very convenient. However, the burning of gasoline pollutes the air and emits CO2. Consider some of the following actions for a more sustainable lifestyle:
- Get a second-hand bike,
- Get a monthly public transport card,
- Take the train or overland busses instead of the plane.
Walking or cycling improves your fitness and health. Sharing a ride or hitch-hiking allows you to connect with strangers. Taking the train or bus to get somewhere might take longer, but can be a great way to see the countryside, slow down, read a book, and connect with friends on the journey.
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How To Be Sustainable In College: Tips For Students On A Budget
Being a college student consumes both time and money, and it can be difficult to make a conscious effort towards sustainable living. Though many plastic-free, waste-free alternatives are more costly, they also last longer than the cheap items were so used to pulling from the shelves and adding to our carts. When deciding where to invest your money, try to look at the amount of use you will get out of each product. In the end, most sustainable alternatives are actually the cheaper option because you only need to buy them once! There are also a handful of free and easy ways to help the planet that dont even require you to leave the house you just have to be willing to try something new! Here is a list of some smart, efficient, and simple ways to be sustainable in college:
Browse your local thrift shops and flea markets for clothing, jewelry, dorm decor, etc.
Buying second hand has so many benefits: its often cheaper, and it feels great to give something a second life. People frequently dispose of items because they no longer have a personal need for them, but that doesnt mean those items wont spark joy for someone else! Finding a vintage piece of furniture, or thrifting a new outfit, is more meaningful than buying something brand new. Buying second hand pieces is like passing down a well-loved story from one generation to the next, and then putting your own stamp on it.
Save jars and use them as cups!
Takeout is not always the answer – cook a meal for yourself!
How Can We Measure Campus Sustainability
Theres more than one method to measure campus sustainability. The UI Green Metric Ranking is an internationally recognised sustainability index developed by the University of Indonesia. It calculates a universitys green credentials based on performance in six categories, spanning setting and infrastructure energy and climate change waste water use transportation and education. The calculations use self-reported data backed up by photographs, documents and web pages and several Australian universities participate in the system to benchmark their performance.
Times Higher Education runs a separate University Impact Rankings system that rates universities against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The ratings use calibrated indicators to offer an independent comparison across three broad areas including research, outreach, and stewardship for a different perspective on sustainability that accounts for aspects such as gender equality and inclusiveness.
The UI Green Metric ranking calculates a universitys green credentials based on performance in six categories. Source: Shutterstock
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Tips On How To Eat More Sustainably In College
Balancing your school life and on-campus meal plan can be hard when you want to become a sustainable eater. Here are some tips to help you transition!
We all want to eat healthy and help the environment at the same time, but that seems easier said than done. With classes to go to and having an on-campus meal plan, trying to eat sustainably can be tricky, so here are five beginner tips to help you get started on the road to sustainable eating:
Using Electronics Instead Of Paper
The world now is digitally focused, and this is good news for a planet. A lot of colleges are equipped with computer classes, electronic libraries, and online testing programs. You may also have with taking notes electronically in order not to waste paper and money on buying notebooks. Instead of buying a book, prefer to borrow it or get only if necessary.
To see and read more more living a sustainable and healthy life, check out the Public Goods Blog by clicking here.
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What Is Climate Change
Theres a difference between weather and climate. The weather is the temperature you can see outside. It has to do with the degrees and conditions, like rain, sun, and snow. On the other hand, climate is the broader condition, or average weather patterns in a given place over a defined period of time.
Climate change isnt a change that happens in a moment or over a day. But rather, its noticeable by comparing weather patterns, or the climate in a particular place, against its history. For example, if a location is used to experiencing 3 inches of rain in a given month, but the next year, it experiences 10 inches of rain in that same period, then the climate has very much changed.
While there are natural reasons for the climate to change, like the Sun moving closer to the Earth, scientists have shown that humans are greatly impacting and straining the climate. However, there are major contributors to climate change that humans have control over. The biggest culprit is the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used for: electricity, transportation, heat production, manufacturing, and more.
Start A Bike Rental Program
Biking to and from campus can have as little as one-seventh the impact as driving a car. Starting a bike share program can make it easier for students to ditch their cars for the semester. Approach your schools administration to see if they will cover the cost of bikes, locks, racks and maintenance.
Benefits of Bike Share Programs:
- Promote exercise and healthy living.
- Reduce vehicle emissions around campus.
- Fund additional campus sustainability initiatives with bike rental fees.
- Encourage those who wouldnt normally ride a bike to start using greener transportation.
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Cut Down On Plastic Use
In the US, packaging makes up the largest category of municipal waste. Single-use items make up 10% of trash in the US and 29% of greenhouse gases come from stuff we make, consume and dispose of. It takes a lot of energy to make single-use items. In addition, plastic is made from petroleum and toxic materials such as benzene and vinyl hydrochloride, which are harmful to humans. By switching out plastic water bottles and straws for reusable water bottles, we can help cut down on the 7.5 million plastic straws that are lying around Americas shorelines and the 1 million plastic water bottles that globally are bought every minute.
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Environmental conservation and sustainability became a popular and partisan topic as a result of President Trumps decision on June 1, 2017 to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. A New York Times article explains that The Paris Agreement, as it is commonly known, was initiated under the United Nations in 2015 and involved 195 countries. Its goal is to combat global warming and climate change, with special emphasis on the removal of harmful carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
Since President Trump made the decision, many companies in the U.S. private sector have come together to initiate eco-friendly policies in their own institutions. According to a recent article in Forbes, these companies include Cisco Systems Inc., McCormick and Co Inc., Microsoft Corp., and more.
While these U.S.-based corporations are just now making strides to support sustainability, many colleges and universities have been implementing sustainable practices on their campuses for years. Its fairly common to see bike racks instead of parking lots, energy efficient light bulbs, and extensive recycling awareness at major colleges.
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Memberships Compacts & Recognition
Knox College is involved in many local and national initiatives to increase the sustainability of our campus, community, and planet. A few recent and important ones include:
- Earned 1st place in RecycleMania‘s Food Organics category in 2018 and 2019
- Ranked #264 in SIERRA’s Cool Schools 2020 ranking
- In 2018 became a Bicycle Friendly University at the Bronze level
- Listed in Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges: 2021 Edition
- Member of AASHE since 2012
- Earned a STARS Silver rating in 2021
- 100% Green Power User in EPA’s Green Power Partnership since 2014
- Talloires Declaration Signatory since 2008
For more information, view our recent annual sustainability reports:
Use Ecocart When You Buy Online
Being at college, often without easy access to a vehicle, means that many people opt to buy more online instead of having to coordinate a ride with friends to go to the store or rely on public transportation. A simple way to be more eco-friendly at school and reduce your carbon footprint is to install the EcoCart Chrome extension and use it whenever you check out online. Every time you see the green button popup, or the shop sustainably tag in your search results, you know that the site you are shopping at supports EcoCart and all you have to do is click the green button and EcoCart takes care of the rest. You can shop online without worrying about your carbon footprint and do your part for the planet!
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Organise A Sustainability Event Project Or Campaign
Once you know what your university or college does on sustainability, you could get your friends and classmates together to:
- Run a sustainability event, such as a movie screening, swap shop, or lecture series
- Plan a bigger project to green your campus
- Or organise a campaign to raise awareness, and change behaviours.
In this way, you could learn how to organise a practical project and get to know new people.