As March Madness got started, the Alliance to Save Energy named its Elite Eight, the eight most energy-efficient campuses with teams in the NCAA tournament. Oregon, Florida, Duke, Cal-Berkeley, North Carolina, Colorado and Syracuse should be proud.
The Alliance’s profiles show that these schools save money with their green efforts. Oregon saved $98,000 last year by replacing 33,000 T12 fluorescent light bulbs with T8s. Berkeley’s energy-efficient improvements are saving $2.5 million annually. UNC, after saving $64 million in the past decade by reducing energy use, is saving another $1 million a year with its upgraded steam distribution system.
But more than that, these institutions also show students what sustainability looks like and how it can be done. Duke, for instance, eliminated the use of coal from its campus steam plants. Syracuse gets 20% of its energy from wind turbines.
Of course, you don’t have to be on national TV to be a national leader in sustainability. Tiny Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a bastion of the liberal arts since the 1850s that – short of cash – suspended operations in 2008, re-opened in 2011 and now has 108 students.
“We are the only liberal arts college starting – or restarting – in the country,” says Antioch President Mark Roosevelt. “This offers the chance to think deeply about what a liberal arts education should look like in the early years of the 21st century.
“We know we must help our students navigate across borders of nation, language and culture, so we are placing a greater emphasis on language acquisition and classes on critical global issues such as water, food, energy, health, governance and education.
“We are committed to becoming the most sustainable campus in the country. A central geothermal plant and solar farm will heat and cool the whole campus. We also have our own farm and raise much of the food served in the campus kitchens. Our newly renovated North Hall will be the oldest building in the country renovated to the Gold LEED standard.”
By living the values of doing right by the environment, schools large and small have been delivering meaningful sustainability messages to their students for a number of years now, and we are seeing the results in our surveys.
Our Eco Pulse™ research shows that the Millennial generation (roughly ages 19 to 31) has the greenest attitudes (though not the greenest buying habits) of any age group. The easy explanation is that they are young and short of money. But our study tells us the contradictions run deeper. Since those who attended college (more than 60% of Millennials) are greener in their attitudes, it’s essential to build on the strong foundation schools are giving them by engaging and influencing this under-30 market now. Communicating your sustainability stories will pay off as this generation ages and continues to form its habits and viewpoints.