Go, Green! How Colleges Across the Country are Becoming More Sustainable

Imagine living in a dorm where, upon walking into your lobby, you encounter a monitor that shows you how much water and electricity is currently being used in the building. This might seem futuristic, but it’s the reality for some students at Emory University. And while every school may not be as high tech, your school could be a lot greener than you think.
We’ve all heard about going green, but for many colleges and universities across the country, the commitment to creating a sustainable campus goes far beyond the availability of recycling bins. Companies such as The Princeton Review and Kaplan, along with environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, have created ranking systems to draw attention to what the most environmentally-driven universities are doing to create a sustainable campus for the students, staff, faculty and the community as a whole.

Last month, The Princeton Review, in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, released the 2011 Guide to 311 Green Colleges in free downloadable form.  In the guide, colleges are ranked using criteria such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, transportation alternatives to minimize air pollution, and availability of environmental studies majors and/or courses, among others.
So, what are schools across the country actually doing to go green and how is this affecting the students?
It’s a complicated trend, and one that can be a bit confusing. Luckily, HC has the answers to some crucial questions and insights from collegiettes™ regarding how they feel about their school’s sustainability efforts.
How Are Colleges and Universities Really Going Green?
One of the most common ways schools are going green is through the construction or retrofitting of LEED certified buildings. LEED certification is a recognized standard for buildings that meet certain sustainable criteria, such as minimizing water and electricity consumption.
Miami University’s Farmer School of Business received Silver-level LEED certification through its energy-efficient design, water conservation and use of environmentally friendly construction practices.
However, the Farmer School’s approach was unique in that the concept for the building was actually recommended and developed in one of the business school’s classes. “The initial catalyst for [the building] was a group of students which, as part of a class, were asked to address sustainability issues,” said Alan Oak, assistant dean for external relations.
Alaine Perconti, an HC Campus Correspondent and junior at Miami University said students love the new building. “Alumni who come back are always saying how they graduated too early,” Alaine says. “The facility is really state-of-the-art.”