Educational institutes can play an interesting role in the development of sustainability practices. Because of their position in the forming of American youths' minds, any green initiatives can impact students opinion when it comes to the environment and environmentally-friendly ideals.
Are education institutes even considering going green?
Higher education has been a breeding ground for sustainable practices with impressive numbers of groups and clubs that care about the environment. GreenBiz reported that the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has more than 1,000 members and approximately 600 schools have registered for the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, which was created by the AASHE. Additionally, the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment has received 684 signatures, 2,151 school have completed greenhouse gas inventories and 533 submitted climate action strategies to the committee. These are impressive numbers when compared to the number of colleges and universities in the country, which, according to GreenBiz, sits around 4,500.
While there are plenty of educational institutes adopting green and sustainable practices, a recent National Association of Education Procurement survey found that 8.6 percent of higher education facilities have no plans of going green at all. However, 26.4 percent were in the process of considering green procurement, which NAEP defined as the method were environmental and social issues are taken with equal weight to the price and performance criteria when making purchasing decisions.
Why would they?
There are many reasons – other than saving the environment and providing a sustainable future for children – for a higher education institute to adopt green practices. Most notably among those is to attract prospective students. A Princeton Review study that found 61 percent of college applicants have their decisions to apply affected by a school's commitment to sustainability.
Those applying to colleges and universities are part of generation that was brought up with the environment and its degrading quality as an important bullet point on the news and media, as well as in popular culture. Many celebrities are committed to sustainable practices as well. Shelton's Group released a study which found that approximately 60 percent of millennials believe global climate change is occurring and caused by human activities. Furthermore, this generation seeks green products to conduct their part in helping the environment. It is not far fetched to assume that their children and younger family members can be influenced by this behavior.
Having sustainable policies affects how people – not only prospective students – view higher education institutes. If these colleges and universities are educating the nation's youth, many expect them to be teaching the students how to contribute to society in a productive manner. Additionally, it is easy to determine at a cursory glance whether a school is green. Are there recycle bins around campus? Do any buildings have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design placards? These are questions that can be easily answered. A positive perception of a higher learning institute can lead to federal grants and support from local communities.
Where to begin?
Green procurement is a good start. Higher education institutes can install solar panels and purchase equipment and goods that lead sustainable practices, but they do not have to invest a large portion of funds with some other methods. Colleges and universities can purchase recycled paper products, energy-efficient appliances and refurbished electronics.
Today's Facility Manager suggested that schools can hire green cleaning companies. This will promote healthy habits on a daily basis. With cleaning products that do not harm the individuals using them or students, everyone can see that the commitment to sustainability is more than skin deep.