Colleges and universities are the laboratories for sustainability practices. In recent decades, words like “sustainable” and “renewable” have found their way into the mission statements of most institutions. Whole departments and many courses of study focus on environmentally positive activity and resource management.
Dartmouth Tackles Recycling
Dartmouth’s recycling initiative has been in place since the 1980’s. Today, the motto is “When in doubt, recycle!”. If the consumer is not sure what to do with their old pens, packaging, oils or batteries, they are encouraged to put them in the recycle bin. The program is designed to deal with nearly everything. Outside companies remove electronics for recycling while furniture, lamps and other household items are refurbished to be used by others.
Davidson College Emphasizes Sustainability in Food Service
Dining Services at Davidson stresses sustainability with suppliers. Products must be packaged in recyclable materials. The buyers focus on using locally produced products, organics, fair-trade coffee, cage-free chicken eggs, and other natural products. The College Food Service composts all of the food waste generated in the cafeterias.
Davidson operates a College Farm. The farm is economically self-sustaining, producing high-quality produce without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. All products are grown with GMO-free seeds and are certified organic.
Duke University’s War on Greenhouse Gas
In its 2013 Sustainability Statement, Duke recognized that the energy generated by the University accounted for 76% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of the campus. Their solution, as outlined in the Duke Climate Action Plan, is to eliminate coal for steam heat production and install solar panels on every building on the campus. And chilled water is used to cool the buildings on warm days.
Duke has also adopted an Energy Star Policy which requires high-efficiency appliances and electronics be used on the campus. As a result, the cost of operations has reduced significantly as these appliances are phased in.
Pitzer College Provides Eco-Education Programs
Since Pitzer’s Environmental Studies program began in the 1970s, they have had a long time to develop some state-of-the-art sustainability programs. Their mission is not only to adopt on-campus sustainability programs, but also to spread the word about environmental challenges. Pitzer’s six-week tour of other universities, named Conscious College Road Tour, is designed to inspire students on other campuses to become committed to sustainable activities. The program focuses on 7 key lifestyle behaviors that can bring about change in the way students view their environment.
Before leaving, the Pitzer students conduct a Town Hall Meeting at each campus to discuss potential environmental projects with students and faculty. The objective is to leave a project in place and a specific individual designated to carry out the mission.
Boston College Tackles Water Conservation
Creating a fully sustainable campus is the main objective for the students and faculty at Boston College. This college recognizes that sustainability is not simply a challenge for only one department, but is a challenge for all. In the area of water conservation, it is noted that the BC population has grown by 14% since 2007 while the total water usage on campus has been reduced by 7%.
How did they accomplish this? Capturing rainwater for irrigation, drip irrigating plant beds, hands-free faucets, elimination of dining hall trays, low-flush toilets and rain-sensor activated irrigation systems that water only when needed. In addition to mechanical adaptations, educational tools and signage create awareness throughout the campus of the ongoing initiative to reduce water waste. Certain suggestions such as 5-minute-maximum showers, shut off faucets while brushing teeth and keeping a bottle of water in the refrigerator for cold water have helped to bring the desired water reductions.
How does your college show commitment to sustainability? Share your thoughts in the comments!