Over the past decade, hundreds of universities across the United States have begun establishing a number of unique and common practices that are energy efficient, cost-cutting, and especially friendly to the environment. What is particularly interesting about this eco-revolution is that it is being fueled by not only administrations but also students as well, as both sides push each other to further their environmental investment. It is this relationship that continues the environmental push seen in universities today.
University administrations are cutting down costs and carbon emissions with common practices, like going paperless and replacing the usual incandescent light bulb with LEDs and compact fluorescents. However, many colleges and universities are going above and beyond these common yet effective actions by modifying and constructing campus buildings to meet LEED-certified standards. Furthermore, as environmental science programs become increasingly popular among students, colleges and universities are creating new programs and majors focused on the environment. For example, Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, created the College of the Environment (COE) in 2009 to “develop informed citizens who can discuss environmental issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, understand their connections to social or political issues, and derive well-formulated independent conclusions.” The COE is special, but it is certainly not alone among American high education institutions. From the very best at Harvard and Yale and all the way down, colleges and universities are putting similar programs into place.
At the same time, students are leading their own environmental initiatives, and though oftentimes smaller scale, they are nevertheless making a impact on the student body and their surrounding natural and intellectual habitat. Numerous colleges, like Kenyon, Wesleyan, University of Texas-Arlington, Middlebury, and many, many more are establishing composting programs for students. These encourage students to take the responsibility of their own ecological footprint and also put them in the mindset of creating an environmentally-minded routine. Other campaigns like those calling for shorter showers, reduced power usage, and housing specifically dedicated to the environment also further encourage students to take responsibility.
The actions of college and university administrations and student bodies not only reflect each other’s, but also reflect a growing investment in energy efficiency and environmental awareness. While university leaders are saving thousands of dollars on energy costs and encouraging young minds to intellectually explore environmental issues, students are groups, programs, and initiatives dedicated to increasing awareness about similar issues. Though we oftentimes pit administrations and student bodies against each other, the two sides are actually supporting and pushing each other to invest for the future.