Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Conscious Campuses

For 69% of college hopefuls, conservation is key.

More than ever, university applicants are thinking green – and not just when it comes to their pockets. Students want to know: when it comes to sustainability, how is your campus making a difference?

And, higher ed is responding. 

From banning bottled water to going gung-ho for gardening, there’s no mistaking: nationwide, an environmental revolution has erupted. 

Here are just a few ways that campuses are putting an emphasis on the Earth. Because one day, she will thank us. ☺ 

1. Tree-hugging Transport

It’s a fact: cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions – producing 333 million tons of CO2 annually. Even more sobering? Last year, over 80,000 people lost their lives due to air pollution.

And our college campuses aren’t having it. Universities across the country are re-thinking transportation, taking students out of their cars – and onto the sidewalks. At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 22% of students bike to class... all thanks to BCycle: the school’s bike share program. They even offer free bike valet on game days. Now that’s our kinda campus.

But UW isn’t alone. Over 30 American universities have implemented some sort of bike sharing program – from Ohio State’s “CoGo” to “Zotwheels” at the University of California at Irvine (how cool are those names?!). At Ripon College, first year students who agree to leave their cars at home receive a free bike, helmet and bike lock – each saving one pound of CO2 for every mile they pedal. 

It might not jive with the biking theme... but an honorable mention goes to the University of Alaska, who’s ditched diesel fuel to run their recycling truck on cafeteria cooking oil. Because what eco-friendly blog would be complete without “greasel”?

2. Conscious Containers 

Planet-friendly packaging? Yeah, we know a little bit about that. Nowadays, sustainable swaps are all the rage – and we couldn’t be more pumped up about the trend. 

As part of their sustainability initiative, the University of Georgia conducted a one-of-a-kind experiment: for one week, all dining halls would ditch their trays. Just seven days of tray-free eating resulted in striking statistics: a 26.7% reduction in plate waste and 16.4% cut in water usage. So, that was that. Because once you go trayless, you don’t go back.

And the eco-packaging shift continues. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay uses biodegradable dishware (made from corn, potatoes and limestone!), while Florida’s Eckerd College has made the switch to Eco-Clamshell: a re-usable takeout container made of durable, dishwasher-safe plastic. 

But our favorite conscious container of all? The GreenBox. ☺ 

Schools like the University of Georgia (these guys are doing things right), Johnson & Wales, UMass, Harvard, Brown and Yale Law are all proud users of our pretty cool pizza box. And, by replacing just 0.04% of traditional pizza boxes with the GreenBox, we preserve approximately 6,000 trees, 2.4 million gallons of water and over 200,000 pounds of air pollution every year. We might be biased, but this seems like a no-brainer.

3. Down in the Dirt 

Ta-ta, Taco Bell. These days, students are getting their hands dirty - bringing farm to dining hall, one patch of Earth at a time. Campuses nationwide are either supporting local growers, or growing local produce themselves... with students even running on-campus farm stands in between classes. 

This makes our green-loving hearts so happy. 

Olympia, WA’s Evergreen State College is a prime example. Their 5-acres of farmland (certified organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture) produces fresh fruit and veggies during the growing season – while also acting as a “living laboratory” for the agricultural sciences. Hankering for a farm fresh apple? Stop by the student farm stand in front of the Olympia Campus library every Tuesday and Thursday. Mmmm... we can just taste the crunch. 

Even urban schools like UPenn and George Washington University are gettin’ in on the gardening, each encouraging students to work in campus green spaces (and, for class credit!). Ugh. A time machine would be key for us right now. 

At dining halls, local love is strong. 80% of the produce served at Santa Clara University is from local farms. Stanford even invites local farmers and fisherman to meet with students, while Princeton collects food waste from dining halls and sends it along to a nearby pig farm for feed. 

4. Water Wise

In 2009, Washington University in St. Louis became the first in the country to ban bottled water. To date, more than 90 schools – including Brown, Harvard & Seattle University have either cut or restricted the sale of bottle water on campus. 

And – for good reason; last year, 38 billion water bottles were piled in landfills. The kicker? Nearly half of all bottled water is reprocessed tap water, sold at prices up to 3,000 times higher than consumers pay for tap. Yikes...just let that sink in for a bit.

But banning bottled isn’t the only way colleges are getting smart about water. Yale has incorporated a “water harvesting system” atop Kroon Hall: one that filters storm water for re-use – saving the school about 634,000 gallons each year. Georgia Tech has a similar initiative in place – all a part of a larger mission to reduce their storm water footprint to that of 1950. 

Ahh, the good ‘ol days.

So, whether you’re embarking on the college hunt (or just want to relive your golden years), we want to hear from you – what are your favorite ways that universities are getting into a “green routine”?

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