Information for the parents of college students
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Is Your College Student Interested in Going Green?

Sustainability is in.  With the increasing interest in and emphasis on sustainability, many students are making the move to “Go Green.”  Many students are considering the Green approach of a college in making their choice of which school to attend.

Environmental responsibility is a growing interest on many college campuses, and the movement is often led through the support and interest of the students.  Students often participate in efforts and programs on their campuses as well as community outreach programs. Colleges with strong sustainability efforts stand to make financial gains as well, but that goal may be secondary in many cases to social responsibility and student education.

If your student is in the process of choosing a college, suggest that he explore various schools’ approach to sustainability and decide whether it is a good match for him.  If he is already in school, ask him what his school is doing and what he is doing personally.

The Princeton Review has been researching sustainability efforts on college campuses for the past six years.  They now publish a review of green colleges as well as include green ratings in their Best Colleges publication.  The Review evaluates schools on environmentally related policies, practices and academic offerings.  Twenty-two schools have earned a place on the Green Honor Roll because of their outstanding ratings.

Many colleges and universities publish information about their environmental efforts on their websites.  These efforts take many different forms.  Some are small, beginning efforts, while others are sweeping all-campus projects.  Some of them include:

  • Increased recycling efforts
  • “Free” stores where students can trade, swap and reuse products rather than buying new
  • Green buildings which are LEED certified and use less energy and water
  • Organic and locally sourced food available in dining services
  • Increasing number of environmental studies courses
  • Pre-orientation environmentally themed programs
  • Encouraging students to use bikes rather than cars
  • Spinning classes which generate power
  • Campus gardens
  • Bottled water bans and reusable water bottle refilling stations
  • Student groups such as Green Ambassadors which promote sustainable practices
  • Green roofs and use of solar panels
  • Reusable take-out containers in cafeterias and snack bars
  • Use of green cleaning products by cleaning services
  • Residence hall competitions to reduce power use (One residence hall reduced its power use by 44% by turning off lights, unplugging chargers and computers when not in use.)

In a broader effort, the Environmental Protection Agency has instituted a Green Power Partnership and Green Power Challenge.  The EPA tracks energy usage of colleges through athletic conferences to see which conference can become the Champion Green Power Conference by making the greatest combined reduction in energy use.  According to the EPA, the top 30 schools have reduced energy use by two billion kilowatt hours per year, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions equal to the electric use of 196,000 average homes.

Clearly, sustainability is an issue that is important to colleges, and to many college students.  It is worth discussing with your college student for many reasons.  Our students of today will become the graduates who will face these issues in the future.  According to Michael Young, president of the University of Washington, “By making sustainability a priority in our daily operations and practices, we demonstrate in an authentic way our commitment to making a better world for us all.”

Related Posts:

College Students Choose Interesting Approach to Global Warming

Is Your College Student a Member of the Apathy Generation?

Alternatives to Having a Car on Campus



1 Vicki { 03.13.14 at 11:43 am }

Great thought, Victoria! Many broad sustainability efforts have begun because of the dedication of a single individual or small group of individuals. Great opportunity for a student to take initiative.

2 Victoria { 03.13.14 at 11:25 am }

Great post! For colleges that might not be as proactive in their sustainability efforts, it poses a great opportunity for an enterprising student who is interested in “going green” to spearhead the cause at the institution. This could be great experience to include on a resume for the college student interested in a “green” career as well. It shows interest and passion in the field as well as hands-on work!

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