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GREEN YOUR EDUCATION

As centers of education and idealism, universities are fast becoming the most progressive fronts in our battle to stop climate change. Universities throughout the United States, as well as abroad, are taking steps to reduce their campus’ energy consumption, purchase or produce clean energy, construct green buildings, and promote recycling and waste 
reduction.  

Recent news:

May 30 2014: Missouri University transitions from coal to geothermal energy. A World War II-era power plant that has provided energy to much of the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus for nearly seven decades is powering down as the university makes the transition to a geothermal energy system. The power plant, which was constructed in 1945, burned coal and wood chips to provide steam to much of campus for the past 69 years. The plant’s boilers have been  permanently shut down and by  fall 2014, Missouri S&T’s geothermal energy system, one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken by a university, will be fully in service. It will provide heating and cooling to 17 buildings on campus and chilled water to the majority of campus buildings. link

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        Below:

  • Links to organizations
  • Student divestment campaign
  • What colleges are doing 
  • Students challenge coal on campus
  • High schools
  • How students can reduce their footprints
Links to organizations

Campus Climate Challenge. Groups across the country are organizing to make their campuses leaders in the fight against climate change.

Environmental Science Degrees
For students looking at the environmental sciences, a web site constructed by Elena Frost makes the searching simpler. With www.environmentalsciencedegree.com you no longer have to call up colleges to find out if they specialize in a certain subject without any background knowledge firsthand, all that is required of you is that you give basic information on your location, the degree you want, and your area of study and that is it. Once you’ve entered that into your search criteria you will be prompted with a near endless assortment of schools and degrees that will give you exactly what you need when looking for the essentials to get a job in a very tough but rewarding field of work.

Power Shift 2013: Pittsburgh October 18-21 - link

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The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is a pledge to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions on campus over time. Universities from all 50 states have signed on to the pledge and many have already made significant strides toward achieving this goal. link  As of February 2010 close to 700 presidents representing 40% of the nation's undergraduate population have pledged to work toward making their campuses climate neutral. Furman University in South Carolina, for example, has a master plan to become carbon neutral by 2026  pdf

The Alliance for Climate Education - ACE - is a leading national organization that delivers free, exciting science-based multimedia presentations on climate change (more) to high-school students. This exciting & engaging presentation meets national science curriculum standards. ACE also provides free resources for schools, students and teachers. Bringing ACE to your school is simple- fill out this brief booking form.

The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) is a student and youth run national network whose mission it is to build a network of diverse grassroots struggles that transcends current fabricated, oppressive constructs by sharing stories, skills, knowledge and radical analysis to dismantle destructive systems, and replace them with sustainable communities of resistance and collective liberation. We define the environment to include the physical, economic, political, and cultural conditions in which we live  - seac.org    

Also see Energy Action Coalition 


The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: "to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement." link

Student Divestment Campaign

December 2012: Students aim at college portfolios to stop climate change. A divestment campaign aimed at fossil fuel companies has swept college campuses across the country since it began just four weeks ago, catching university presidents by surprise. The effort is the result of a student-led campaign coordinated by 350.org, a climate advocacy organization founded by activist Bill McKibben. The goal is to turn global warming action into the moral issue of this generation. "Bottom line, for a college or university, you do not want your institution to be on the wrong side of this issue," said Stephen Mulkey, president of Unity College in Maine. Students at dozens of other universities have sat down with senior administrators and boards of trustees to lobby them to sell holdings in coal, oil and gas companies. Divestment campaigns are now underway at 153 colleges and universities, large and small from coast to coast. The organizers expect to reach 200 after the winter break. link

August 2013 - over 300 colleges have so far divested- update link

January 2013: Students call for divestment from fossil fuels.
The 2013 student convergence at Swarthmore College will be an opportunity for students from across the country working for fossil fuel divestment to meet, share skills, and develop strategy for a powerful national movement. The convergence is being planned by a coalition of organizers from multiple campuses across the country; in organizing and facilitating the convergence. link  


What colleges are doing 

July 2013: Texas A&M plans huge solar project. The proposed "Center for Solar Energy" at Texas A&M University's Central Texas branch will make the school the world's first all-solar university. The university has come up with this innovative project to save power costs and reduce its carbon footprint. It will utilize nearby unused land for the world's biggest solar test farm. The solar farm will be developed exclusively for solar prototyping and R&D, and not as a commercial farm. As a test farm, it will host hundreds of solar cell designs from various manufacturers. The project is expected to draw in very large investments in solar technology research and development over the next five to six years. The farm will be located in Bell County and spread over an area of 800 acres and produce 50MW of power, sufficient to provide 100% of the university's power requirements, and still have spare power left for about 20,000 homes nearby. link

November 2012: First US school run on 100% renewable energy. A rural elementary school in Arizona is the first in the US to run entirely on renewable energy. Five wind turbines and 100 solar panels supply the school's electricity. Emphasis on Navajo traditions of community: self-reliance and caring for the environment through green building and clean energy  supplies 37 kilowatts of solar and wind power to the school. link

August 2011: Small community college in MA goes zero carbon. “We’re one of the few campuses in the country, and perhaps the world, that is approaching zero net energy and zero net carbon, and that’s without buying green energy from another source,” said Ed Terceiro, a former school official who helped lead the wind turbine project at Mount Wachusett Community College in Central Massachusetts. With electricity bills approaching $800,000 annually, school officials decided to reinvent the institution as one focused on renewable energy. Two Vestas wind turbines will power 97% of the school (video link)

February 2011. Maryland colleges go solar. The University of Maryland is going solar, installing more than 2,600 photovoltaic panels on one of its buildings near the College Park campus, reducing the carbon footprint by more than 600 tons a year. The 631-kilowatt system is to be placed on the roof of the Severn building, a multi-purpose structure less than a mile from the campus. University officials say it will be one of the biggest solar installations in the state, though it's dwarfed by the 2.1MW solar "farm" being built at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. link 


May 2013: Princeton Review releases which colleges are the greenest in the U.S.   For the fourth year, the Princeton Review has released a guidebook that profiles the greenest colleges in the US.  Schools included in the guide scored high on Princeton Review's "green rating" system, which weighs criteria such as academic offerings and career preparation, transportation and construction policies, energy consumption, recycling and waste diversion, greenhouse gas reporting and climate change initiatives, and organic food.  link
August 2013: University of Connecticut tops Sierra Club’s 10 Coolest Colleges for 2013 - link

March 2012: Universities across US ban bottled water.
More than 90 U.S. schools, including Harvard and Brown, are banning the sale or restricting the use of plastic water bottles, unnerving the $22 billion retail packaged-water industry in the U.S.
Freshmen at colleges across the country are being greeted with stainless-steel bottles in their welcome packs and encouraged to use hydration stations where free, filtered water is available.  Reducing or eliminating plastic bottled water saves students money and has the environmental benefit of reducing the need to truck bottles across the country. link

July 2012: Gen X disengaged on climate change. A University of Michigan report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change - uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers. "Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don't spend much time worrying about it," said Jon D. Miller, author of The Generation X Report.  “In 2009, about 22% said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16% said they did so." link

July 2011:
Preparing for climate change. On a five-acre patch of land on the Kentucky’s Berea college campus, a group of students and staff is calmly preparing for the apocalypse. They are taking small steps to prepare for a slow-motion catastrophe they say has already begun as economic and population expansion outstrips the global supply of resources and creates a warmer, stormier climate. “We're locked into an economic system that requires infinite growth, and we happen to be on a finite planet,” said Richard Olson, a Berea professor and director of its Sustainability and Environmental Studies. “It's only a question of when our ever-increasing use of resources hits those limits.”  pdf     

October 2009: $24 million to universities to develop wind research projects. The U.S. Department of Energy will invest $24 million in three university-led wind energy research facilities. Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Maine and University of Minnesota will each receive up to $8 million for projects which will focus on research and development on land-based and off-shore turbine performance reliability. The projects are also expected to create career and educational opportunities for students in the wind sector. link

June 2011: First grid-positive college in U.S. Butte College in California this week becomes the first college in the history of the United States to go ‘grid positive,' meaning that it will generate more electricity from its solar arrays than it consumes and will deliver power back to the electric grid. The college estimates that it will save between $50 million and $75 million over 15 years, even after accounting for project costs and interest. link

May 2012: New Jersey college goes 90% solar. Lawrenceville School, a 100-year old private school in New Jersey. is now getting 90% of its electricity from solar.  The school installed a 6.1 megawatt (MW) ground-mounted system on 30 acres of school-owned farm land, the largest installed at a U.S. primary or secondary school.  link  

College life may look different in the not-so-distant future with announcements of cost-cutting programs that help sustainability. Hundreds of colleges and universities are turning down their thermostats to save on heating, in programs like “Chill-Out” at Davidson College in North Carolina which also saved $10,000 by switching from bottled water to tap at most college events. Colleges are also installing low-flow shower heads and energy-saving light bulbs and holding contests to see which dorm can most reduce its electricity costs. link

Eco-campus in Nottingham, England, where computers automatically power down after 30 minutes, the new bioscience block is built using straw bales, and there are six buildings with green roofs. With photovoltaics embedded in its glass, the campus uses a quarter of the energy required by a comparably sized building. link

April 2011: A poll from Yale University showed teens had serious misconceptions about the causes of and solutions to climate change, which led some of them to doubt its occurrence, humanity's involvement in the process or to understand its causes and solutions. In many ways teens showed less understanding of climate change than did adults. Only 25% of American teenagers receive a passing grade on their climate change awareness and understanding, and only about half of teens accurately believe climate change is occurring. Overall, 54% of teens received a failing grade, compared with 46% of adults. Only 6% of teens polled have an A or B level of understanding of climate change, while 41% have C or D grade. link

Students challenge coal on campus

February 2100: Purdue University in Indiana moves towards clean energy. Purdue was the only university in the country planning to build a new coal plant. Instead the Board of Trustees chose wind and natural gas sources of energy over coal. A drop in gas prices and the likelihood of future regulations with respect to coal use and ash disposal were factors in the university's decision. In a separate decision the Board approved a plan to lease land for a 60-turbine 100MW commercial wind energy park. Some of the power could be an additional energy source for the university. link

January 2011: Penn State University moving from coal. One of the biggest universities in one of the U.S's biggest coal-producing states, Penn State announced that it will transition away from coal-fired power in the next three years, and will invest up to $35 million to convert its on-campus coal-fired steam plant to natural gas by 2014. Officials said that by using natural gas rather than coal the school will lower its carbon emissions by 37%. Eventually, students hope to see the university run entirely on renewable energy. link

November 2010: College campuses continue to leave coal behind. With more than 60 campuses nationwide getting energy from coal plants, student protests and lawsuits over power generation have become a part of college experience.  link

High schools

February 2012: Green Schools Alliance.  K-12 schools in America spend over $8 billion a year on energy. So they’re the perfect place to save money by implementing efficiency, conservation and green building techniques, all while educating students about energy issues. A competition organized by the Green Schools aims to help facilitate that transition. Across the U.S., students of all ages from kindergarten to high school are competing in the Green Cup Challenge (now in its 5th year), a four-week event that encourages schools to cut energy use. Three weeks into the event, one school has cut its electricity consumption by 17% through simple changes in behavior. link
The Green Schools Alliance is a global community of schools working together to achieve an environmentally sustainable future.

March  2013: Man-made climate change to be added to U.S. curriculum. New recommendations are being introduced for educators to teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting as early as elementary school, and incorporate it into all science classes. By eighth grade, students should understand that "human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). This potentially ends an era in which climate skepticism has been allowed to seep into the nation's classrooms. The ‘Next Generation Science Standards” were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve and more than two dozen states. link

November 2010: They're about 50 feet high, whirl like pinwheels and instill an excitement in students. Wind turbines spreading around the West in schoolyards under the Wind for Schools project. Currently 11 states take part in the program, but eventually 35 states are expected to participate. link

How students can reduce their footprints

Seven steps to a greener dorm room
Green tips for dorm living

Many of the ideas listed on the What Can You Do? page are things that the average college or university student can easily do as an individual.  But collectively students are in a unique and powerful position to influence the decisions of their institution's leaders and make significant changes on their campuses, as shown by the examples above.

There are many ways students can make a difference. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Join your campus’ environmental group or start your own.  The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) is a national grassroots coalition of student and youth environmental groups fighting environmental injustice.  To see if a SEAC chapter is present on your campus or for help starting a new one check out www.seac.org.

Encourage your school’s president or chancellor to sign on to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.  If they haven’t already signed on (to check click here) work with your campus environmental group to get them to!  If they have signed the commitment, find out what steps have been taken to achieve carbon neutrality on your campus. You can start by contacting your Sustainability office, if there is one, or Facilities Management.

Green your transportation.  If you live on campus or nearby, ride your bike, walk, or take public transit as much as possible.  If you commute to school consider carpooling, or start a campus carpooling program if one does not already exist.

Make smart paper choices.  Students use massive amounts of paper.  Buy recycled paper and notebooks, and recycle papers you no longer need.  Print only what you need to print, and whenever possible print on both sides of the sheet.  Save sheets that have only been printed on one side to use as scrap paper or for printing on the other side.

Write to your school or local newspaper.  If there is something you want to change, or an effort you want to praise, write about it!  This is also a great way to publicize what your group is doing on campus and attract new members.  Here are some tips for letter writing. 

Certain universities are collecting old jeans as participants in the Cotton, Blue to Green Denim Campaign. The  university campaigns are run by students and are making an impact on the environment in their own way - more

Reduce waste on campus.  This may seem obvious but campuses produce lots of garbage that ends up in landfills.  Reuse or recycle everything you can!  Use reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.  Push for more reusable items in dining halls, such as reusable bags, cups, and plates.  Avoid styrofoam and plastic and if you must use disposable products, opt for those made from paper.  Push for a campus composting program for leftover food.

Buy used.  A great way to save money and the planet is to buy used.  Textbooks are much cheaper if purchased used from the school bookstore or online.  But don't stop there!  Look for good used furniture, appliances, and clothes at thrift stores or on sites like Craigs List. Sell or trade your stuff when you're finished with it instead of throwing it away.  Organize a yard sale at the end of the school year.

Unplug appliances when not in use.  Your cell phone charger is consuming energy even when your phone isn't plugged in.  Your computer is hogging energy while you're asleep.  Put appliances on a power strip that you can turn off at once if you have trouble remembering to unplug each one.  For more on conserving energy check out the Conservation page. 

Be involved.  Probably one of the best ways you can make a difference is to be involved on your campus and within your community.  You can meet others with similar interests and promote awareness of environmental issues.  Stay informed of what is happening in your community.  Volunteer at a local elementary school or help clean up a stream.  You are making a difference!  Check out volunteer opportunities in your area here

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