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Eco-Friendly Universities Are Leading the Way to Sustainability in the U.S.

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Educating young people in how to go green is a great step in the right direction toward an eco-friendly future. We can tell students to read on a website that renewable energy and eating organically are good for the environment. We can design buildings on paper that are made with recyclable materials and energy-efficient systems. But when schools put these measures into place, they prove that sustainability isn’t just talk – it’s a way of life. Colleges and universities are using their students’ enthusiasm for a greener planet to implement tactics we should all emulate.

Let’s take a look at just a few examples of how schools are showing their students and surrounding communities what environmental responsibility looks like.

Bar Harbor, Maine: Students live and breathe sustainability at this college that consistently tops lists of the most green school. The college was declared carbon neutral in 2007 and is dedicated to green building as well as preservation and conservation. They use renewable fuels throughout the school, recover hot water to heat incoming cold water and eat organic, local food on campus. Buildings boast composting toilets and all kitchens have compost bins.

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona: The desert university has made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2025. It’s well on its way to meeting this goal, having installed systems for heat recovery as well as wind and solar power. All new construction must meet LEED Silver standards, along with the 30+ buildings on campus that are already LEED certified.

Warren Wilson College, Ashville, North Carolina: This campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains is known for being nearly self-sustaining. It grows almost all its food organically on campus and gets resources for building from its own grounds. It’s also known for having the first LEED Platinum certification for an existing dorm. Other initiatives, many student-inspired or run, include a free store for recycling/reusing goods, vehicles run on biodiesel and solar power, and streetlamps that emit low light pollution and are solar powered.

Berea College, Berea, Kentucky: This tuition-free college serving students of Appalachia runs the EcoVillage, a housing complex on campus that aims to reduce energy and water use by 75% less and reduce waste by 50%. It utilizes energy-efficient appliances, thick insulation, wind and solar energy and rainwater. Its recently renovated Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant was the state’s first LEED Gold hotel.

Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington: All sustainability actions taken on campus dovetail with the adopted goals of becoming carbon neutral and zero waste by 2020. Examples include buying 100% clean power, running electric vehicles and a bike share program, and operating an aquaponics greenhouse and solar hot water system. Thirteen acres on campus support organic crops as well as composting facilities. The food grown not only feeds students on campus but is sold through a community-supported agriculture program and farm stand and donated to local food banks.

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