Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Green Schools are Cool

In the last few years, the number of Green schools has significantly increased. With burgeoning student demand and a wide range of innovative programs, green schools are cool. Until this year, the majority of green schools were private colleges. Now there is a diverse mix of public and private institutions.

Sustainability is the most daunting challenge we have ever faced and students around the world are serious about exploring the ways we can address this grave and growing problem.

Environmental leaders in one school organized students to use a pedal-powered generator to produce the electricity to play Guitar Hero. At another college, incoming freshmen were given energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs along with their campus IDs. However, efforts to manage climate change on campus are not limited to video games and lightbulbs.

The Sierra Club reports that, "collegians nationwide turned down thermostats; performed waste audits; and lobbied their schools to reduce energy use, provide healthier and organic food, and set a sustainable example for the rest of the world."

Four hundred college and university presidents have signed a pledge to make their institutions carbon neutral. And students at almost six hundred US and Canadian schools are organizing clean-energy solutions as part of the Campus Climate Challenge.

On campuses across North America, we are seeing creative campaigns that speak to students and raise awareness about sustainability. Dorms, fraternities, and neighboring campuses are competing against each other to reduce energy and water use. Students compete for fun and to help the environment. At Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, the winning residence hall received an energy-efficient flat-screen TV.

A six year old annual college recycling competition was won this year by California State University San Marcos, the school recycled nearly 60 percent of its waste. Cornell and Rutgers Universities are the winners of MTV's Break the Addiction Challenge for their climate-friendly campus activism.

We have known about our negative impact on the environment for decades, but we have not reversed the alarming trend. In the past, some have appeared disinterested, others overwhelmed, but this new generation of students are optimistic about the opportunities to find solutions to the climate change dilemma.

Colleges across North America are raising awareness about the scope of the climate change problem and providing the resources to innovate solutions and address the considerable challenges we must face.

With students eager to engage the greatest problem of our times, Green schools are indeed cool schools.

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