So What About Green?

For those of you who are doubters — green is here to stay! Not only is the movement gaining steam on campuses across the country, it’s also gaining steam in American homes as well. Recently, Consumer Reports conducted a survey on green behavior at home. When asked whether they’ve incorporated green into their household, 45 percent of Americans replied “very much” or “somewhat.” Nine out of 10 respondents took at least one action to lessen demand on their home heating and cooling systems; for example, using fans instead of A/C. Sixty-six percent recycle plastic — but many are still putting recyclable items in the trash. There remains a lot to do on the home front, but green is catching on.

On the college scene, student-driven efforts are making the news. Students at Williams College in Williamstown, MA, took the initiative to make their campus greener. Last year they collected 1,000 signatures from the 2,000-student campus, urging administrators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They also participated in an Earth Day competition to see which residence hall can conserve the most. The resident students made simple changes: lights were dimmed, electronics turned off, and items like phone chargers unplugged. According to Stephanie Boyd, director of Operations at Williams and head of its Climate Action Committee, in last fall’s competition, one building's consumption dropped 44 percent, and so far this year a few dorms have had weeks in which consumption fell 30 percent. Overall, residence halls have dropped six percent in energy consumption this month.

In this issue you will read about other student-led initiatives, including an organic garden on the campus of Florida’s Stetson University and vermicomposting in the residence halls of Luther College in Decorah, IA. Other schools are discovering energy savings through retro-commissioning, careful analysis when selecting roofing materials, or simply turning off computers. Facilities are being renovated or designed with a conscious eye towards certified sustainable or the innovative re-use of existing materials. At schools across the country, campus-wide actions are underway as higher education moves towards a vibrant and sustainable future.

But like the students at Williams College, Stetson University, Luther College, and others are demonstrating, simple changes can make a difference too!