The coolest colleges are going green

Think this whole “green” thing is just a fad? Maybe some elements of it, but if trends in higher education are any indicator of larger patterns, sustainability will continue to play a role in how we live, work, and play. In late June, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) released its annual Digest, a collection and analysis of stories from the previous year’s weekly newsletter. Just the size of the publication should give us hope: according to Acting Executive Director Judy Walton’s “Introduction,” the 2008 Digest is 50% larger than the previous edition.

At 356 pages, there’s a lot of information to take in… a few of the more notable developments in ’08:

  • 66 new sustainability-focused academic programs, from the graduate level to technical training, launched in 2008.
  • 26 campuses installed or announced plans for solar and wind power.
  • “Over 130 campus green buildings were planned, started, opened, or awarded LEED certification in 2008…”
  • Over 17 colleges and universities began bike sharing or renting programs.
  • Over 23 campuses began offering local, organic, and/or Fair Trade food options in their dining halls.

We’re just scratching the surface here: there were also positive developments in hiring sustainability professionals to serve in and outside of the classroom, funding for research and teaching, campus operations practices, and measuring, and then reporting, greenhouse gas emissions.

The Digest is available for free on AASHE’s web site… if you have a child looking at colleges, it probably belongs right beside the scholarship guides and party school rankings.

Image: Wind turbine at Minnesota’s Cartleton College

Credit: resedabear at Flickr under a Creative Commons license