Great Ideas for Greening Your Campus


Institutions of higher learning have an enormous responsibility to help lead the way towards a more sustainable society, and nothing empowers and interests a university administration more than students committed to a good cause. Your individual efforts can have an enormous impact on a key institution at this moment in history.

But what can you do?

Join and organize- Most campuses have a student environment club. In the past, clubs brought in speakers and organized Earth Day celebrations. Today these clubs are much more active, creating green power initiatives on campus and helping in strategic planning. You can find groups on your campus at
Create a symbol- This year, Appalachian State University’s Sustainable Energy Society will hold its 12th annual solar Christmas tree lighting ceremony. As a project that blends tradition with a positive vision for the future, it is symbolic of what can be done in the Appalachian region’s universities.
Initiate leader involvement- Ask your college president to sign the Climate Commitment.
Vote on green fees- Hundreds of colleges have organized students votes on green fees through their student government associations and now assess a green fee as part of the student activities fees. They range from $5 to $20 per semester. A green fee can be used for everything from recycling bins to biodiesel fueling stations on campus or helping with green power purchases from off campus.
Hold Eco-Olympics- between residence halls. Duke university holds one every year for energy, waste and water reduction. For Duke’s rules and guidelines, see:
Sign up for courses in renewable energy- and sustainability. At Appalachian State University, for instance, full courses in Appropriate Technology are held, and a student-faculty board thinks ahead to larger projects that can be taken on. If you don’t have courses in solar, wind or biofuel development, ask that they be developed.
Document your experience- share your struggle.Contribute to“It’s getting hot in here” blog ( or Appalachian Voice ( Tag Flickr photos or YouTube videos “climatechallenge” and they will show up on the web site. You can even compete in the global warming poetry contest.

What can your campus do?

Making a real difference takes time and commitment on the part of the university. Your advocacy is an important part of a long term process. Ask your college to:
Join the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education- Hundreds of campuses are now members, including (in our region) the North Carolina and Tennessee state university systems, Berea, Duke and Warren Wilson.
Create an office of sustainability- to coordinate sustainable planning. Most leading universities now have a permanent office of sustainability. Model policies are available in the “policy bank.” Standards for campus sustainability are also being developed.
Buy green power- For example, Warren Wilson in NC buys 100% green power and Duke University buys about one third of its total power from green sources. The EPA has a Green Power Challenge to universities for the 2007-2008 academic year.
Buy green products- Your university’s purchasing system has an influence over the economy. Everything from recycled paper to regionally grown food can be considered in this process.
Build green buildings- The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a national standard for design, construction, and operation of green buildings. Many campuses are using LEED standards for new and retrofit construction. This saves money and also serves as an educational example.


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