Achieving greater levels of environmental sustainability is a concept that is being embraced by US colleges and universities. These institutions are not only utilizing sustainable practices and policies as a means to obtain both ecological and financial gains, they are also incorporating them into curricula as options for students to receive interdisciplinary instruction as witnessed in the University of Michigan’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.
In some cases, such as at the Rochester Institute of Technology, students can even graduate with a dual-degree that emphasizes both a core major discipline and a minor in environmental sustainability.
An increase in sustainability-related courses has emerged as an option for students who are interested in supplementing their learning experience though interdisciplinary curricula. These courses are now available in all formats: online through virtual offerings, inside the classroom with an instructor present, and outside the classroom as internships/externships where students contribute to, as well as learn from, local non-profit organizations. While some members of the higher education community view “going green” as merely a phenomenon, due to its reputation for being an initiative that is somewhat expensive to implement, others who disagree are engaging in eco-friendly practices that are equal parts innovative in their design and border-line revolutionary in their ambitions and goals.
In 2010 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), the largest historically black college and university in the United States with over 12, 000 students, 156 buildings, and nearly 4 million square feet, entered into a partnership with Siemens to reduce their energy consumption which will encompass an upgrade in lighting, pipe insulation, and steam trap replacements at their campus’ central plant. The contract is valued at 2.4 million dollars and Siemens has guaranteed that the university will receive energy savings immediately and predicts a cost savings of more that 4.1 million dollars over a subsequent ten year period.
Going green is clearly no longer an afterthought for these universities, whereas their faculty, administrators, students and staff are all actively engaged in learning more about sustainability and making their campus operations more eco-friendly and cost-efficient.
If this trend holds steady, more campuses throughout the United States will join the environmental sustainability revolution, as they readily invest in their infrastructure and adopt policies and mandates which combat environmental change through action.