U.S. Universities Begin to Use Renewable Energy

Nearly one quarter of colleges and universities in the United States derive at least some of their energy from renewable resources, according to a national survey of environmental practices.

WASHINGTON, DC (US) 2002-01-29 [SolarAccess.com] The first national survey conducted by the National Wildlife Federation shows that many schools are making the grade by embracing sound environmental practices but, at the same time, others are due for environmental remediation, according to ‘State of the Campus Environment: A National Report Card on Environmental Performance and Sustainability in Higher Education.’ “The best campuses in this survey are providing a green compass for others to follow,” says Julian Keniry of NWF. The survey, conducted with Princeton Survey Research Associates, found enhanced environmental responsibility driving decisions in every part of campus life, affecting everything from curriculum to purchasing decisions and landscaping. Sixty-four percent of 891 educational institutions that responded say that environmental concerns now are an integral part of the culture and values on their campus. Nearly one quarter meet at least some of their energy needs from renewable energy sources, with 12 percent using alternative fuels to power part of their fleet vehicles. The survey shows colleges and universities are making significant use of conservation and efficiency to meet energy needs, with 80 percent introducing lighting efficiency upgrades to save energy. Almost all have programs in place to increase energy efficiency for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water use. Recycling is one of the more popular environmental programs on campus at 65 percent, but the report says it needs improving. Environmental consciousness has a weaker foothold in curricula, scoring a ‘C+’ for environmental focus in chemistry and political science programs, and a ‘D’ in education and engineering. While a number of post-secondary institutions stand out for educating students in all disciplines about environmental sustainability, the survey found that, unless students are majoring in biology or environmental studies, they likely will complete their school career without gaining basic environmental literacy. Only 8 percent of universities require all students to take environmental studies courses, and only 12 percent of engineering and 11 percent of education programs currently offer such courses. “For the first time, we can see broad trends that will help us set priorities and establish benchmarks for improving environmental performance and better educating students because the two go hand in hand,” says Lander Medlin of the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers and a survey co-sponsor.


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