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Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Green Matters

It wasn’t all that many years ago when the talk about sustainability started to gain steam. I remember attending the 2003 Greenbuild conference in Pittsburgh — their second conference — and thinking that this would replace technology in education as the new hot issue. It definitely has! Colleges and universities across the country have made a commitment, driven in part by student demand, to make their campuses sustainable. Here are a few examples of their efforts.

Duke University: Students for Sustainable Living (SSL) is a student internship program run by Sustainable Duke. SSL is a paid, 15-member student corps dedicated to “greening” Duke’s campus culture through education and outreach.

The University of Michigan: The Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund offers grants of up to $50,000 annually for projects that reduce the university’s environmental footprint and/or promote a culture of sustainability. Projects awarded in 2014 included Bees on the Roof, Environmental Community Program, Events Based Composting Program, Food Recovery Program, Native Grass and Solar Powered Workstation.

The University of Illinois: The Student Sustainability Committee recently allocated about $828,000 to fund 10 projects. The $12.94 Sustainable Campus Environment Fee and $2 Cleaner Energy Technologies Fee were also recently reaffirmed on the spring student referendum. Combined, the fees allow for an approximately $1.1 million budget to be allocated to support student-driven sustainability projects and initiatives.

The University of California: The University of California is taking the lead on food challenges. Over 51 percent of their produce is purchased within 150 miles of campus. The dining service early on worked with farmers and has been an example for all the UC campuses and building collaboration.

Sustainability may be a long-term approach to environmental protection and process improvements, acknowledging the connections between the economy, the environment and social responsibility. But in the short term you will see that sustainability initiatives matter to students and the institutions they attend NOW. It may not be first on the list of why students chose to attend a particular college, but it certainly makes the list. According to the Princeton Review, among 10,116 college applicants who participated in their 2014 “College Hopes & Worries Survey,” 61 percent said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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