Environmental issues have finally and permanently come out of the shadows, with everyone from politicians to scientists to pastors admitting that climate change is a real issue that must be addressed. The super storm that caused massive damage up and down the Eastern seaboard might have been the last straw for those that have been loudly promoting sustainability, and excuses are just no longer acceptable. Luckily, not everyone has waited this long to get involved in saving our planet. In fact, colleges have become bastions of sustainability, not only with what they teach, but how they run their campuses. Universities are like self-sustaining cities, and any changes on that scale are significant. Here are just a few of the green colleges in the US that are leading the way in sustainability.
First off, head into the heat of Tempe, Arizona, where Arizona State University has made some of the strongest sustainability commitments of any institution in the nation. The University has set a hard and fast goal to cut all of its greenhouse emissions by a whopping 75% over the next dozen years. And it isn’t just lip service. They’ve got installations in place that recover wasted heat to be recycled into energy. They also have a strong infrastructure in place to generate energy with solar and wind arrays. And any additional construction on university grounds has to be LEED Silver certified. Added on to the thirty buildings on campus that already meet these standards, it’s clear that ASU will hit its goals.
Another, lesser known program doing incredible work is Berea College, in the small Kentucky town of the same name. This Appalachian school actually doesn’t charge students tuition, which is a huge boon to human sustainability in this poverty-wracked region. But Berea College also provides housing in its self-styled EcoVillage. This on-campus housing has been designed to cut waste in half and reduce water and energy usage by a full 75%. The insulation is green, the appliances are all energy efficient, rainwater is collected and used and additional energy needs are met through solar and wind energy. The college also features the very first hotel in Kentucky to be LEED Gold certified.
The state of Maine is known for its incredible natural beauty, and the management of Bar Harbor College aims to keep it that way. The entire school has been officially carbon neutral for the past six years. All energy needs are met with renewable fuel, the majority of hot water is recovered and recycled and the cafeterias all feature locally-sourced, organic food. Every kitchen on campus has a bin for composting, and many of the buildings utilize composting toilets. This is truly one of the gold standards of sustainability.
In Ashville, North Carolina you’ll find Warren Wilson College, one of the greenest campuses in the world. In fact, it is very close to becoming entirely self-sustaining. Around half of the food is grown right there on campus, through wholly organic means. Even the raw materials for new construction are sourced right there in the community. They have a dorm that is certified LEED Platinum, and all campus vehicles are hybrids. Ohio university and the other schools looking to fully embrace sustainability would do well to look at Warren Wilson College, and follow their lead.