About Campus Networks
NWF's Campus Ecology program supports regional campus networks, collaborative groups of colleges and universities advancing climate and sustainability solutions. Campus Ecology aims to achieve the following five goals with these networks:
1) Assist campuses in achieving their goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement the Presidents Climate Commitment.
Campus Ecology’s number one priority is to help each campus make steady and substantial cuts in their climate footprints by sharing our own resources and expertise. Leaders will gain valuable knowledge and skills through:
- Workshops hosted by NWF, our partner organizations, and regional climate solutions experts that address the nuts and bolts of greenhouse gas inventories, on-site renewable energy systems, and alternative transportation.
- Reviewing one another’s climate action plans to collect ideas and offer feedback.
- Sharing strategies for financing major capital projects, from power plant overhauls to building retrofits.
2) Facilitate the exchange of resources and best practices that are adapted to a region’s particular political, economic, and geographic contexts.
Online resources currently provided by Campus Ecology, AASHE, and other organizations make it easy to find general information about a project or topic, but region-specific information can be hard to come by. By sharing their collective knowledge and experience, participants could:
- Seek recommendations for local contractors to build LEED buildings and renewable energy systems.
- Learn about municipal and state grants and incentives for alternative transportation.
- Meet individuals with firsthand knowledge of how geothermal systems or composting operations perform in local climate conditions.
- Develop learning communities and working groups tailored to the needs of facilities managers, sustainability coordinators, faculty, and students.
- Bring faculty from a particular discipline together to discuss strategies for integrating sustainability into their particular fields.
3) Foster partnerships between campuses and community organizations.
At the heart of most campus mission statements is the goal of empowering students to make a positive contribution to society. Through internships and service learning projects, students can gain valuable real-world experience while supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy in their communities. Similarly, colleges and universities have begun to share their resources and expertise with local and state partnerships for sustainability. Possible partnerships include:
4) Enable campuses to leverage their collective purchasing power to cut emissions, drive markets for sustainably-produced energy and products, and reduce operating costs.
- Students in service-learning programs work with the Board of Education to develop a green K-12 schools program, construct schoolyard habitats and gardens, and start sustainability clubs.
- Inviting community members and local businesses for tours of green features on campus.
- Hosting community forums on global and local climate change concerns and training citizens to serve as "climate solutions ambassadors" in their neighborhoods.
- Creating a revolving loan fund that helps finance energy-efficiency projects for homes and small businesses.
Much of the critical work that needs to happen can be accomplished more efficiently at larger scales. Working through a Climate Action Network, campuses can negotiate better rates and drive demand for green products. Projects might include:
- Jointly investing in the construction a new wind farm that would provide low-cost, carbon-free energy for participating campuses while creating new jobs in the community.
- Developing a purchasing cooperative that offers discounts for local and organic food, environmentally-friendly paper, energy-efficient computers and appliances, and green construction materials.
- Working together to secure grants and financial sponsors for the network.
5) Empower campuses to use their expertise to advocate for better climate policies.
As states, municipalities, and families make efforts to reduce their climate footprints, campuses have the opportunity and responsibility to support public policies that cut net emissions, revitalize the economy, protect natural resources, and contribute to national security. This work might entail:
- Establishing an advisory board to help a state develop and implement its climate action plan and secure funding for campus sustainability projects.
- Working with planners and U.S. Green Building Council chapters to upgrade building codes and create incentives for businesses and households to invest in energy-efficiency.
- Meeting with state or federal representatives to support a bill that would invest in a green jobs training program or support legislation to fund programs that prepare students for a green economy through sustainability-integrated curriculum.
In working towards each of these goals, colleges are able to leverage the power of their network and non-campus partnerships to accomplish something that would have been beyond their individual reaches.
Campuses and communities alike can reap benefits ten-fold in their initial investment of time and resources.