Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to School

Educational establishments from grade schools to universities are increasingly going Green. These efforts include the small things like conservation and recycling all the way up to building more energy efficient infrastructures. Many employ diligent recycling programs for paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, and cans. These recycling programs benefit the schools by reducing waste transportation expenses and by generating cash through the sale of recyclable materials. Others work on more comprehensive carbon reduction programs. Some schools are now using geothermal energy for heating and cooling, urinals that don’t use water and furniture made from the trees felled to make room for the school.

Some school cafeterias have switched from Styrofoam to washable and reusable trays, cups and flatware. Others have replaced paper handouts with CDs, online forms and email memos. Still others use VOC-free materials, cisterns to capture rainwater from the roof, solar tubes to minimize the need for artificial lighting and preferred parking spaces for low-emissions and fuel-efficient cars.

The Princeton Green Review rates institutions of higher learning on a Green scale. Recently they indicated that 11 colleges received a perfect score. Arizona State University (Tempe campus); Bates College in Lewiston, Maine; College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine; Atlanta’s Emory University; the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts; State University of New York at Binghamton; the University of New Hampshire in Durham; the University of Oregon in Eugene; the University of Washington in Seattle; and Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Harvard has instituted a $12 million revolving loan fund for green campus projects. The University of Miami has banned on-campus cars for all incoming freshmen. Instead students are encouraged to use fuel-efficient cars available through a university partnership with Zipcar. The Zipcar option will also be offered at Maine’s Bowdoin College. Other institutions like The University of Florida in Gainesville, have launched a campaign entitled “One Less Car Challenge” to encourage students, faculty members and staff to reduce individual car travel. Students and teachers appear to be making an effort to limit the amount of paper we use. Teachers are now using more electronic media. And some students are being given the option to turn in assignments electronically. Teachers can also using the blackboards rather than handouts.

It is not only the older kids who are interested in Green. Younger children play important roles, both as catalysts for change and as Green consumers. New on the market this fall is the “Big Kid Eco Pack” a backpack made with nylon which is created from recycled plastic drinking bottles, trimmed with naturally biodegradable canvas.

When paper is necessary many are using recycled paper and using less of it. Small changes can make a big difference. Educational establishments also play a salient role in raising awareness and this is perhaps the most important role they play in support of the Green revolution.

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