Getting college credit for saving the environment might not be far off in the future. Many colleges have added sustainability programs and environmental study majors to help you connect your studies with the real world.
Feeding the Masses
Most college cafeterias include pizza, hamburgers, and all you can eat desserts; but, some greener colleges are looking for ways to add healthier items to the menu. Way back in 1969, Connecticut College became one of the first undergraduate colleges to offer an environmental studies major. In 2005, they began Sprout! the College’s first sustainable gardening initiative. Sprout! now provides more than 100 pounds of fresh food grown organically on their own campus. In 2007, they started a compost program to reuse food waste and provide compost for their organic gardens. Connecticut College also purchased enough renewable energy credits to offset their energy usage this year.
Work Up a Charge
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more motivation to go to the gym? Yale student, Henrique Rocha, developed a way for an exercise bike to do more than just burn calories. He discovered a way to channel the wasted energy and heat from bicycling to charge several small electronics such as a cell phone, an iPod, and possibly a laptop. According to the Yale Daily News, future plans for this project include providing enough electricity to power the gymnasium.
UCLA’s group PEIR (Personal Environmental Impact Report) has invented a way to know how many carbon emissions you are creating in your daily life and how you are impacted every day by different exposures. PEIR allows users to track their footprint via cell phone or through Facebook. The cell phone tracking is made possible by using GPS to track your exposure indirectly. When you add the PEIR application via Facebook, you can compare your scores with that of your friend.
The same group has also started a program GarbageWatch.com. This program tracks and photographs all trash cans on the UCLA campus. By doing this they hope to track where more recycling bins need to be added on campus and analyze what students are throwing away to better know how they can reduce the waste.
What Can You Do?
To make your campus greener, you do not have to have a Ph.D. in environmental studies. Follow these easy steps and spread the word to fellow students using email or word of mouth.
RecycleMania is a program started in 2001 by two colleges looking for a friendly recycling competition. Since then the program has expanded to more than 500 schools competing and recycling more than 40 million pounds. If your university is not yet involved, talk to your school’s supervisor and enroll at Recylemania.com. There is a good chance your university is enrolled in the competition but not at a competitive level. You, and others at your campus, can rally and bring awareness to the recycling competition. Make sure to place clearly labeled recycling bins near regular trash cans to make recycling easy for everyone.
Think about all the announcements posted campus-wide—everything from football games to chess club meetings—then add up all the papers your professors give you. Having professors and club advisors move the majority of their assignments and their announcements online will not only save thousands of papers, but also make it more convenient for internet-savvy students. Encourage university web services to make surfing announcements easy and accessible for everyone. Other ways to save on paper (and money) is to buy e-versions of textbooks when made available.
Turn It Off
Switching to energy-saving light bulbs and air conditioners can help universities save money and the planet. Bring up using energy efficient appliances and bulbs in each classroom, office, and dorm to your university board—a big difference will be seen in the use of electricity as well as your college’s energy bill. On a personal level, you can start by unplugging unused appliances and switching off lights in your dorm room.
You can make a difference in your school by raising awareness of green issues and coming up with ideas that support both your school and the earth. You may be surprised to find out how many of your fellow students are willing to help.
Ashley Sinatra is a freelance writer based in Lancaster, California. She enjoys reading and saving money.