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Crown Capital Management Environmental Reviews 16 Things That Colleges are Doing to Help the Environment

Crown Capital Management Environmental Reviews 16 Things That Colleges are Doing to Help the Environment18-09-2013 06:40
Crown Capital Management Environmental Reviews 16 Things That Colleges are Doing to Help the Environment

In this era of sustainability, many conversations revolve around "going green." Cities, states, even entire countries are bringing the green conversation to the table, all in hopes of accomplishing the global goal of preserving the Earth's natural resources and improving worldwide quality of life.

Colleges in the United States where research and innovation is a top priority are becoming a major part of the conversation as well. With information compiled from The Daily Green and U.S. News & World Report, here are 16 things that colleges are doing to become more eco-friendly.

1. Eco-friendly buildings

The University of California's Santa Barbara branch boasts the nation's first building to earn two Platinum certifications, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's (LEED) highest rating. Bren Hall is made of recyclable materials and features roof solar panels for powering the building.

2. Eco-friendly dorms

In 2003, the EcoDorm at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC became the first building to earn a LEED Platinum certification. The EcoDorm's numerous accomplishments in sustainability include energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy indoor air quality, and the use of local recyclable materials. Students living in the dorm forgo certain energy-consuming appliances, such as TVs and hairdryers. Duke University has a similarly interesting dorm called the Smart Home, where ten students from different academic disciplines form teams to research and innovate new practices in energy efficiency and sustainable technology.

3. Ecovillages

Berea College in Kentucky is home to a five-acre residential complex called the Ecovillage,which hopes to achieve a 75% reduction in energy and water use and a 50% reduction in solid waste through the use of eco-friendly appliances, heavy insulation, solar panels, wind power, rainwater collectors, and more. Nancy Gift, Compton Chair of Sustainability at Berea, believes that "sustainability is important to the college partly because sustainability is obviously really important for our world to continue existing," she said. "Specifically in Appalachia, we need to be considering sustainability more because many of the ways Appalachia has been developed in the past has contributed both to lack of health and prosperity among the people of Appalachia, but also to environmental degradation." Berea approaches sustainability with the belief that "human health, human employment, human social justice are intimately related with environmental quality," Gift said. The Ecovillage at Berea attempts to instill that belief in its residents, which are students with families. "We're hoping they will leave Berea and either seek to create or seek to live in those same kinds of communities when they finish," Gift said.

4. Wind turbines

In 2009, the University of Colorado at Boulder topped Sierra Club's greenest colleges list for its work with the National Renewable Energy Labs to construct wind turbines at the Wind Research Park south of Boulder. The energy harvested by the turbines feeds into a grid which benefits the whole state.

5. Organic farms

Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA owns and operates a five-acre Organic Farm on its campus. The farm is used not only for classes such as organic agriculture but also to bring organic produce to the campus eateries and for donation to local food banks. Student interns working on the farm are taught the planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting of diverse organic crops and small-scale farming methods. The University of California's Santa Cruz branch operates an even larger farm of 25 acres. Produce harvested there is also offered through UC-Santa Cruz's dining program, which eliminated trays and successfully reduced food waste by 35%.

6. Organic kitchens

In 2006, UC-Berkeley presented the nation with the first certified organic kitchen. Certification is what sets UC-Berkeley apart from other schools serving organic produce; the rules require absolute preservation of products' organic integrity from the loading dock to the plate. An entire kitchen devoted to organic foods was necessary in order to ensure this integrity.

7. Landfill gas-to-energy projects

In 2009, the University of New Hampshire created the EcoLine, the nation's first landfill gas-to-energy project led by a major university. Through this project, landfill gas became the university's primary fuel source, providing energy and heat to over 85% of the campus.

8. Food composting

For over forty years, the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME has carried on a tradition of food composting, thanks to the help of the Campus Committee for Sustainability. Compost is collected in bins placed at the residence buildings and dining halls and used to feed the college's organic community gardens.

9. Degrees in sustainability

Arizona State University's School of Sustainability made ASU the first institution in the nation to offer a degree in sustainability. The school itself is appropriately eco-friendly, featuring energy- and water-efficient fixtures, recycled flooring, and rooftop wind turbines. Candice Car Kelmann, Assistant Director at ASU's School of Sustainability, says sustainability comes down to two things at the university. "There are multiple layers of solutions-orientation at ASU and one of them is through emphasizing and rewarding use-inspired research and another one is through walking the talk and making the university a more sustainable place," she said. Maximilian Peter Christman, a student at ASU seeking a Bachelor's in Sustainability, has a forward-thinking approach to sustainability. "A lot of people will think sustainability is simply about sustaining the Earth, but it's really about sustaining society and the cultural structures that hold up what is today's world," he said. "I think a common conception of that is that sustainability is about giving your children and your children's children the same opportunity that you had."

10. Biomass plants

Middlebury College in Vermont built its $12 million biomass plant to help it achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2016. The plant's biomass boiler cuts heating oil usage in half, reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 40%, and generates 20% of the campus's electricity.

11. Soy-lubricated chainsaws

Warren Wilson College uses soy-based lubricant on their chainsaws to reduce soil and groundwater pollution. When a tree is cut, the traditional oil used is shed onto the forest floor surrounding the tree and absorbed into the soil or nearby streams and rivers, doing harm to the environment and potentially to human health. The college's soy-based oil is natural and biodegradable.

12. Web-based energy monitoring

Oberlin College instituted a campus resource monitoring system which offers real-time feedback on electricity consumption. The system alerts dorm residents to their energy usage and has spurred cross-dorm competitions for reducing electricity consumption. Winning dorms have helped to reduce electricity use by up to 56%. Bridget Flynn, Sustainability Coordinator at Oberlin, says sustainability is a part of Oberlin's culture. "Oberlin realizes the realizes the damaging effects of environmental degradation and climate change, and as a leading educational institution we have a responsibility to take action on these things," she said.

13. Vegetable oil-powered vehicles

In 2006, two students at Harvard University proposed converting one of the school's recycling trucks to run on waste vegetable oil from a campus dining hall. The truck runs on straight vegetable oil, or SVO, runs just as smoothly as it did on diesel, and supposedly emits more pleasant-smelling exhaust.

14. Eco-friendly art

Middlebury College's Mahaney Center for the Arts is guarded by an eco-friendly sculpture brought to life by the community. The piece, called So Inclined, was thought up by artist Patrick Dougherty and constructed in three weeks with the help of the Vermont county's community members. The piece consists of teepee-like structures composed of silver maple and grey dogwood saplings harvested from a nearby town. The sculpture is temporary and when dismantled will contribute to compost and campus plantings.

15. Eco-friendly demolition

When Middlebury College became ready to tear down its aging Science Center, the idea of demolition was cast down in favor of a process called deconstruction, which involves taking down a building systematically in order to preserve materials that can be reused in construction or renovation.

16. Living machines

Many colleges operate living machines such as the one at Penn State University, which like most others consists of a series of tanks housing live ecosystems designed to eliminate or process waste. It is an effective water-treatment solution which can turn murky water crystal clear in four days.

02-09-2016 10:35
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