The notion of the "green" university
I recently received an email from a reader named Tim who shared an article from his website that he thought I might be interested in reading and sharing. The article is titled "The 10 Greenest Dorms in the World," and it is interesting and worth reading if you've ever lived in a dorm and wished it was cooler, or if you are curious about what college dorms can be when green building is taken into account. Here at UCSC, we have a few Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings (see the list of UC-wide LEED buildings here), including the new Porter College Dorms, which are LEED Silver Certified. We have a LEED Gold Certified building on campus, as well, but it's a student health center rather than a housing unit. The campus is working toward more LEED building projects and is even going to offer a training to students and others on LEED certification.
While it's great to have green buildings and to make sure that the operations of a college are as sustainable and energy/water efficient as possible, it's vital to remember that a college is a community of people and more importantly, people who are learning, educating, or working to keep the educational system functioning. What this means for sustainability in a university setting is that education on issues of sustainability has to be a key component of campus culture and consciousness in order to affect change (and to consider oneself at the forefront of sustainability or the green movement).
The greenest dorms in the world are cool, but what's cooler is when a university can actually teach students, staff, and faculty the value of sustainability and make it something natural, normal, and necessary in the discourse of classes, social interactions, and campus planning, and in lives of the people living and working there. This not only means teaching students environmental studies concepts or encouraging them to take classes that touch on these subjects, but also educating students through events, internships, jobs, activities and finding ways to make sustainability a part of the campus culture such that incoming students recognize that sustainability is not something one chooses to be aware of and care about or not, but rather something that is necessary to be aware of in order to be a conscious citizen and an educated person.
I'd love to hear about what other students are doing on their college campuses to affect this kind of change. Any of my readers in college? What do you see happening on your campus related to sustainability?
Thanks for reading!