Generation E: Students leading for a sustainable, clean energy future

35 Ways students are creating a sustainable future at U.S. colleges and universities — cutting carbon emissions, saving resources and equipping the coming generation for a green energy economy.

11-01-2009 // Christina Erickson, David J. Eagan

Generation E was created to show the many ways students are turning their passion for sustainability into effective action, both on campus and in their surrounding communities. In the past few years, there has been a groundswell of projects and initiatives at colleges and universities — as well as the formation of local and national organizations — that reflect a growing student movement based, in part, on a determination not to make the same unsustainable choices that now are the legacy of earlier generations. Today's students will be the ones whose lives will be most shaped by the challenges stemming from climate change that arise during their lifetimes. The complex issues facing the campus, and indeed the world, may seem daunting, but students are viewing them as opportunities — initiating change and working to find solutions.

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The college campus has been an ideal laboratory for exploring many of those solutions. The 70+ pages of Generation E feature dozens of contemporary, student-led projects across 35 project categories that are organized under 15 topics:

 

  • Renewable Energy
  • Behavior Change
  • Climate Planning and Personnel
  • Education and Outreach
  • Energy Conservation and Efficiency
  • Food and Dining
  • Funding
  • Green Building
  • Green Purchasing
  • Habitat Management and Restoration
  • Mixed Media
  • Recycling and Waste Reduction
  • Residence Halls
  • Transportation
  • Water Conservation

 

Project examples and case stories come from 165 campuses across 46 states. Those postsecondary institutions include all types: public and private, four-year and two-year, urban and rural, large and small. Topics range from photovoltaic panel installation to dorm move-out programs; from local food purchasing to restoring a native wetland. With an eye on the budget, students have devised creative funding mechanisms for campus projects and also have saved their schools significant amounts of money through initiatives such as residence hall competitions and laboratory fume hood closures. And they have enthusiastically taken the sustainability message beyond the campus borders with lightbulb exchanges and weatherization programs for low-income city residents.

While the focus of Generation E is on case examples of students-in-action, it is written for all members of the campus community, because everyone can make important contributions to campus sustainability efforts. As a richly illustrated "idea-book," the guide presents a wide array of project possibilities, encouraging students, faculty and staff to engage with their campus and community in ways that make real reductions in their school's carbon footprint and also foster the technical and intellectual skills needed in the future green economy. Throughout, there are photos, graphics, links to related resources and an extensive endnotes section so readers can learn more about specific campus projects.

The stories in this compendium of best practices from schools around the U.S. are an inspiration. In rich detail, they show how students are having a major role in advancing sustainability — and readying themselves for green jobs and a clean energy future. Increasingly, the National Wildlife Federation and other voices for the environment are taking steps to lift up examples like these to show how bright minds in a nurturing educational setting can bring about real change and provide leadership for others. We hope the stories and voices in Generation E spark new and significant action on campuses everywhere.

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