The effects of climate change are driving colleges and universities to implement and diversify sustainable energy strategies. As a matter of fact, 800 U.S. higher-education institutions have signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging to engage in high-visibility efforts to address climate change and achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, per the commitment’s goals. Because of the prominent role that universities play in the U.S., including their vast influence, they are essential in meeting global greenhouse gas reduction objectives.
The Impact of Sustainability
Every year, American colleges invest billions of dollars in building and construction upgrades and maintenance, food, transportation, energy, research, and education initiatives. These colleges have an inherent responsibility to be leaders in sustainability because of their investments, endowments, employment levels, public funding, real estate holdings, and research resources. Believe it or not, these institutions can have a huge financial, cultural, and social influence in towns where they are the largest employer. Examples of this include Arizona State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Pennsylvania State University among many others.
The biggest drivers for universities to “go green” include pressure for educational innovation, cost savings, and demand from both students and the public. Universities can directly contribute to these “green” efforts and reduce their carbon footprint in a few ways:
- Providing degree or certificate programs in sustainability.
- Creating student resources for sustainable efforts.
- Conducting research based on sustainability challenges allowing better implementation practices, programs, and technology.
- Zero CO2 emissions by investing in renewable energy and technology, promoting public transport, or insulating buildings.
- Utilizing specialized funding and applying for public grants reserved for sustainability efforts.
Ongoing Responsibility and Reality
Investing in sustainable efforts is also important for institutions’ Corporate Social Responsibility (and to a larger extent, their ESG). 10,400 college applicants participated in The Princeton Review’s 2022 College Hopes & Worries Survey. 77% said information about a college’s commitment to the environment would affect their decision to apply to or attend a school. Of that 77%, 37% said this would contribute “strongly” or “very much” to their decision about attending a school.
Institutions like Averett University in Virginia are taking steps toward achieving carbon neutrality by implementing new technologies like Dalrada’s commercial heat pumps, and Web 3.0 solutions that will likely save them tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs. These technologies also provide the university with the ability to capture activity data and project future energy usage.
“Green” universities all have a similar goal of meeting the needs of present students without compromising the needs of future students. These forward-focused universities are already adopting sustainable initiatives and they continue to review and renew these practices, making sure that students are getting the best possible experience without damaging the planet and investing in innovative technologies to help meet their carbon-neutral goals.