Campus Sustainability Case Studies Demonstrate Greening Trend in Higher Education

NWF-Published Resource Signals Sea Change on American Campuses

11-16-2011 // Max Greenberg
Warren Wilson College green building case study

American colleges and universities have made substantial capital and intellectual investments in the cause of environmental sustainability. Now, it is possible to see their innovative efforts, from renewable energy systems to sustainable campus farms, with a single online resource.

National Wildlife Federation’s campus sustainability case study database, the only catalog of its kind, is available online now at thanks in part to the support of The Kendeda Fund. Close to 100 new case studies were added for 2011, highlighting sustainability efforts including recycling, energy efficiency improvements, alternative transportation systems and green jobs training programs. The database already has more than 600 case studies from campuses across the country.

“American colleges and universities lead the way on sustainability, as in numerous other areas,” said Kristy Jones, senior manager of the Campus Ecology program at National Wildlife Federation and the director of the case study initiative. “It is encouraging to see so many of their most inspired ideas in one place, where we hope a great cross-pollination of ideas and action will occur among schools throughout the U.S. and beyond.”

Exceptional Ideas Abound

Examples of campuses featured for 2011 include Colorado State University’s construction of one of the largest solar energy systems on a college campus, a 5.3 megawatt plant powering one-third of the university’s Foothills campus; Delgado Community College’s (New Orleans) horticulture program’s work to restore the coastal barrier islands hit hard by coastal erosion and the effects of the 2010 B.P. oil spill; and Emory University’s implementation of an innovative syringe-sharps recycling program that allows for the reuse of biohazard containers that would otherwise have ended up in landfills.

Published each year since 1989, NWF’s Campus Ecology sustainability case study database has become an indispensable resource for students, faculty and others interested in the climate and clean energy revolution happening on campus. The database is searchable by topic, year, state and school, and includes information on each college’s project goals, successes, challenges, funding strategies and project leaders.

More Evidence of a Greening Trend

George Mason University garden

The campus case studies illustrate once again that American institutions of higher learning are committing themselves to a ‘living laboratory’ approach to sustainability through greening physical infrastructure and student educational experience, a process that NWF has actively encouraged. The Campus Ecology program now supports the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, a higher education initiative to help create green jobs and lower campus operating costs, and, with partners, Lucid Design and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), recently announced the launch of Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN) 2012, a nationwide electricity and water use reduction competition among colleges and universities.