College campuses go green

Large university campuses are like their own universes. So much is self-contained but, as a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (which boasts a 70,000+ student body), I’ve actually wondered about how they deal with waste or what their commitment to recycling is. How do they manage the environmental impact they’re making in their local community? If any of you attended a large university and ate frequently in the cafeteria, you know why I would wonder this.

So, I was interested to read in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today that the practice of “going green” at universities is sweeping the nation, starting right here in Washington State. In fact, Western Washington University here in Bellingham is one of the nation’s first campuses to operate completely on renewable energy.

Many universities and colleges have developed recycling programs since the early 90s but what has led to the swift “greening” changes that affect a campus’s food programs, construction and energy consumption? Apparently, industry standards for green buildings, recent mainstream attention on climate and energy issues, and pressure from the student bodies are to credit.


WWU now offers an organic farming degree, and students at the University of Washington recently petitioned the university to lobby textbook publishers to use more recycled paper. Composting of produce, bread, and coffee grounds is already a common practice (see photo). And students are experimenting with converting leftover cooking oil into alternative fuels. Most importantly, I’m impressed that the leadership at these universities sees their “green” steps as an opportunity to teach their students about how they can become our sustainability leaders of the future.

Never miss a teaching opportunity, I say. In fact, I’m counting on them to do this.

Author by Kristi Anderson