Green is the New Black: Universities

Photo by MCT/Meader

When David Kohler gave up his trash in favor of recycling, he wasn’t sure it’d catch on. In an effort to reduce Pacific Lutheran University’s negative environmental impact, save money and further demonstrate PLU’s commitment to ‘care for the earth,’ Kohler, who is the director of facilities management at PLU, started the ‘Can the Can’ campaign.
‘I just thought one thing that would be neat is to not have any trash cans on campus,’ Kohler said. ‘I don’t have one; I can recycle everything here at PLU.’

In the fall of 2006 he distributed thousands of green, 1.5 liter buckets to the students and staff across the Tacoma, Wash. campus. A little over 50 percent of the student body (which has just under 4,000 students) immediately traded in their trash cans for these plastic buckets, and currently about 70 percent of the campus uses the small recycling cans.’
‘It fits on your desk and you can put your small little trash things in it, but everything else gets recycled,’ Kohler explained.

With more and more colleges and universities starting to look at their carbon footprints and becoming aware of the damage they are doing to the earth, campaigns just like ‘Can the Can’ are popping up everywhere.

Students at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. hold an annual competition, spending an entire month ‘doing it in the dark.’

This campaign encourages students to keep lights, computers, plugs, water, etc. turned off as much as possible. What does the winning dorm get? Bragging rights as the most energy efficient dorm on campus!

According to an article written by Christine Frey in SeattlePI, watermelon rinds, pineapple heads and lettuce leaves are used to fertilize the flowers across the campus of Seattle University.

All of the plants and shrubs throughout the campus of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., are edible.

‘Climate change is no longer an elective,’ said Cindy Shea, director of sustainability at UNC-Chapel Hill. ‘It’s something we all have to deal with on a daily basis.’

While administrators are actively involved in sustainability initiatives, students are increasingly becoming major advocates of such efforts on their college campuses.’ ‘
‘A lot of initiatives first get started because students push for them,’ said Niles Barnes, projects coordinator for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Barnes is also a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED is the company that assesses how ‘green’ a building is).

On the campus of Pacific Lutheran, students recently implemented a free bike co-op.
‘It’s a place for people to come rent bikes on campus, and the best part is that it’s a completely volunteer project, thought up by PLU students,’ Kohler said.

The students at UNC-Chapel Hill passed a transit fee so that everybody could travel on the bus systems, free of charge.

‘With the ‘Green Energy Fee’ passed, each student pays an additional $4 per semester towards green energy campaigns. This comes out to about $200,000 a year,’ Shea explained. ‘This year is also the first year we have started using bio-diesel in the buses,’ she added.

But not all students and faculty are working together to change the environment. On our very own campus, little effort is being made to further environmental change.

‘Students need to come out and make their voices heard more,’ said Keil Brinster, who is involved with Recycle UT and spearheads the UT Sustainability group. ‘Unfortunately, students would have to get pretty radical (i.e. a walk or protest) for the administration to actually make any changes. Petitions of over 400 signatures failed.’

The current state of our economy is also a major concern in the longevity of this nationwide endeavor.

‘Certainly the economic situation we’re in right now has made the future of this movement more difficult (i.e. funding for renewable energy), as people are pulling back more and focusing on reserving their institutions,’ Barnes said.

However, The Princeton Review, known for its test-prep courses and resources helping students choose and get into colleges, will add a new rating to their long list of other college rankings this summer when it comes out: a green rating.

This new green rating of colleges measures how environmentally friendly each institution is. The colleges or universities are awarded a numerical score, on a scale of 60 to 99, that is based on data that The Princeton Review collected from them during the 2007-2008 academic year, as stated on The Princeton Review website.

According to a New York Times article written by Kate Zernike, a Princeton Review survey of 10,300 college applicants was conducted this year, and 63 percent said that a college’s commitment to the environment could affect their decision to go there.

Although some people are cutting back and some haven’t even caught on yet, they will have plenty of time to do so as this national trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top