As the green scene has expanded and the trend has become a way of life, it's not surprising that sustainability has made its way into universities across the United States. Since so many young minds are shaped in these environments, it's especially commendable for a school to take an active eco-friendly role. So which universities get an 'A' for going green?
- University of Pennsylvania
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports Penn as the university with the largest renewable energy usage. The university purchases more than 200 million kWh of green electricity, making up 48 percent of its total energy use. The school offers more than 160 classes pertaining to environmental sustainability, provides ample green space for students, has five LEED-certified buildings and plans to be carbon neutral by 2042.
- University of Oklahoma
In 2010, OU made a commitment to purchase 100 percent renewable energy by 2013. The university is very close to reaching its goal. As of March, the EPA reports 85 percent of OU's energy comes from wind power. That's more than 153 million kWh of electricity! In addition, the school has placed increased focus on its recycling efforts. In 2012, OU recycled more than 932 tons of materials, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.
- Ohio State University
Ohio State is one of the largest universities attempting zero waste from its athletic stadium. So far, the school has been successful at diverting 90 percent of the stadium's waste through recycling and composting programs. It also purchased 141 million kWh worth of renewable energy credits, offsetting 24 percent of the entire university's electricity usage so far in 2013. In addition to conserving electricity, the school operates a rainwater reuse system to reduce runoff and water consumption.
- Carnegie Mellon University
As part of its environmental efforts, Carnegie Mellon University has six green rooftops ranging from expansive coverings to small student gardens. These not only provide green space for students to enjoy, they also help reduce heating and cooling costs. These saving might be why Carnegie Mellon is one of only a handful of universities that operates solely on renewable energy. In 2013, the school has purchased more than 116 million kWh of renewable energy credits, offsetting 100 percent of its energy consumption.
- Georgetown University
Georgetown goes above and beyond with its renewable energy use. According to the EPA the university gets 109 percent of its energy from green resources. While most of its green energy is thanks to renewable energy credits, a small amount of solar energy is created onsite. Georgetown is home to the longest-running solar installation of its scale in the country, which has generated 5.8 million kWh of energy since 1984.
- Oklahoma State University
At the beginning of 2013, OSU purchased 110 million kWh of wind energy, providing 67 percent of its annual electricity usage. However, the purchase was just one of many steps the university has taken to conserve energy. Since 2007, OSU's efforts for energy conservation have saved $22 million in energy costs. In further efforts to remain sustainable, the school's dining facility is committed to using only locally grown produce to reduce transportation emissions.
- Northwestern University
Northwestern made a $40 million investment to increase the school's energy efficiency, largely through building renovations. The university now has six buildings that meet LEED certifications, with two more in progress. Combined, these improvements have cut electricity needs by 5 percent. With more projects on the way, the university can significantly increase its energy efficiency. In addition, Northwestern uses 37 percent renewable energy, an equivalent of 96 million kWh.
- University of Utah
The campus, which sits on more than 1,500 acres, wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. As a part of its efforts, the University of Utah annually purchases 93 million kWh of renewable energy, or 31 percent of its total energy consumption. The school also has three LEED-certified buildings with an additional seven projects registered and in the process of obtaining certification.
- Drexel University
After signing the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, Drexel got to work on its goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 80 percent. When it signed the commitment in 2008, the school agreed to reach its goal by 2050. However, after Drexel started getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources in 2011, it surpassed the goal 39 years early. The university has also implemented a number of energy-efficient improvements, reduced carbon emissions and converts every ounce of used cooking oil from dining facilities into biofuel.
- University of Tennesee, Knoxville
The University of Tennessee in Knoxville's sustainability initiatives are paid for by its students. In fact, the school's purchase of renewable energy was based on a student-led initiative. Essentially, the students wanted to pay a small fee each semester to support green initiatives on campus. Since 2012 students have been charged a fee of $10 each semester. The money goes toward the purchase of renewable energy amounting to 31 percent of the school's total usage, which is more than 80 million kWh.
Guest Post written by Keith Patterson. Keith is a freelance blogger on green energy innovation and design for the greater good. #KCPatterson711