Photo via Jessica.Tam @ Flickr
A single college or university can produce an almost immeasurable amount of waste each year -- and when you multiply that by all of the schools in the country, and the world, those numbers add up.
But some schools are taking their conservation efforts beyond recycling bins and CLF bulbs with everything from on-campus community gardens and programs that reach out to student renters to bike incentive programs for commuters -- and that's success you can count on.
1. Reaching Out to Renters
Photo via DailyCamera
Colleges and universities that want to make energy-efficient choices in their own buildings have an advantage -- after all, they own the buildings. But as CU-Boulder student Christina Aalto realized, getting students who live off-campus to care about energy efficiency in their rentals is much harder.
Aalto is the student manager of the university's Environmental Center's SCORE program -- which stands for Student and Community Outreach for Renter Efficiency -- and she and her teams of student assessors focus on renters, offering them free CFL bulbs, water-conserving shower heads, insulation for their pipes, and sealant for their windows, along with other tips for saving energy at home. (The teams also bring each group of college students a foolproof offering: free pizza.)
2. Going Carbon-Neutral at Green Mountain College
Green Mountain opened its own biomass plant in April, and now uses fewer than 41,000 gallons of fuel to provide power to the 155-acre campus -- that's down from 230,000 gallons (and they make up the difference wood chips from local sources -- 5,000 tons of wood chips). According to Green.Blorge, the plans for the biomass plant came from a freshman seminar in 2005 that encouraged students to
find ways around using oil.
3. Getting Back to the Garden at Urban Colleges
4. Commuter Incentives in California
At Stanford University in Palo Alto, students committed to not driving to campus at all received up to $282 in financial incentives; at UC Irvine, the Sustainable Transportation program encourages the use of public transportation, fitted parking garages with fluorescent lighting, and even adjusted traffic signals; and at UC San Diego, the school bus runs on biodiesel, students who ride their bikes most of the time get free parking for their rare car trips -- and Zipcars are available on campus.
5. Banning Bottled Water
In February 2009, Washington University in St. Louis announced a campus-wide ban on bottled water; students at three campuses were no longer able to buy the bottles in vending machines or from the school's restaurants and take-out spots.The school claimed it was the first in the country to enact such a ban, and they reported a surprising side effect: A little more than a month after the plan went into action, the number of sodas those eateries were selling dropped, too.
6. Zero-Waste Fashion at Parsons
The fashion industry isn't generally known for its sustainability, and production waste is a big part of the problem: As much as 20 percent of the material that goes into making the shirts, pants, skirts, and other clothes in your closet finishes its life in landfills. And while zero-waste fashion trims that number, designing to use every last piece of cloth is harder than it sounds.
Parsons the New School for Design plans to tackle the zero-waste challenge from the ground up by adding a course -- that will premiere this fall -- in zero-waste fashion (as The New York Times reports, this class is one of the first of its kind in the world).
The class will focus on teaching students how to make jeans without wasting any fabric, and the students will be learning from the masters: Timo Rissanen, assistant professor of fashion design and sustainability, and Scott Mackinlay Hahn of Loomstate. The top-of-the-class student will see his or her design produced by Hahn's team and for Spring 2011 at Barneys New York.
7. Green Grads
Guiding students through four years of energy-efficient, sustainable-sourced education is a big job for any school -- and at the University of Texas in Austin, they know that the task isn't over once finals are finished.
This year, the school outfitted its graduates in GreenWeaver graduation gowns, made from recycled plastic bottles. The school claims that -- during just one day of Pomp and Circumstance -- they're saving 200,000 plastic bottles from the landfill.