Sustainability has become much more prevalent on college campuses recently, and certainly since I graduated from college. I was reminded of this fact this month when I went back for my alumni reunion at the University of Pennsylvania. There is, for example, a whole section of campus that is chock-full of green building elements. A week later, my wife’s alumnae magazine had a large story about the sustainability efforts of her alma mater (SUNY-Geneseo). Ironic how these occurred at the same time.
Like many universities, my alma mater (University of Pennsylvania) is taking sustainability very seriously. Penn, like many universities, has intertwined different aspects of sustainability into various aspects of its operations. It certainly includes credit courses, but it really goes into many, many aspects of Penn’s daily operations. This includes obvious items like recycling and energy management. It also includes less obvious aspects like seminars and lectures (not tied to a particular course) and a “Sustainable Purchasing Initiative” that focuses on environmentally friendly procurement choices. This particular initiative also includes a “Freecycle” type of exchange for excess University property called Ben’s Attic.
My alma mater’s sustainability efforts are pretty interesting; my wife’s alma mater’s (SUNY Geneseo) sustainability programs are pretty impressive also. The current issue of Geneseo’s alumnae magazine had a couple of stories about the same topic. The most unexpected aspect of Geneseo’s program has to be the high-efficiency washing machines. The college reports a savings of 6.4 million gallons of water since 2007. As an amateur composter, I also appreciated the fact that 14,000 pounds of food waste have been composted into mulch. This mulch is in turn used across campus for landscaping. Like Penn, Geneseo also has a “buy local” program. Given that Geneseo is located in Western New York State, “local” has a different definition there than in Philadelphia–100 miles vs. say, 100 blocks.
Penn and Geneseo are by no means the only universities that have implemented numerous sustainability initiatives. Many universities and colleges (including Penn and Geneseo, have signed a document called the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. By doing so, they publicly committed themselves to an ever increasing amount of initiatives to combat climate change–i.e.–making their campuses more and more environmentally friendly over time. I think it is fair to say that these two institutions have come a long way in the past several years.
Sustainability at SUNY Geneseo
Penn’s Green Campus Partnership
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