Community colleges across the country are leading the green revolution, as administrators are tuning into the many benefits an environmentally responsible campus provides. One particular institution, Butte College in Northern California, will be the first college in the country to boast a positive grid campus, producing more clean energy than it uses, according to a press release. While Butte College is setting the standard for greener campuses, other colleges are following suit with a variety of creative programs designed specifically for sustainability.
Paying for such environmental changes can be a hefty undertaking, as colleges like Butte have found. However, the federal government has pitched in to help Butte fund its sustainability efforts through low-interest loans like Clean Renewable Energy Bonds and benefits from the American Recovery and Investment Act. Other colleges have also found funding assistance through state and federal government agencies, while still others have footed the bill for some of their projects themselves or through private donations.
By May of next year, Butte College will become the first positive grid campus in the country. At that time, the college predicts that it will be producing more sustainable, on-site solar energy than it actually uses; in fact, Butte will become the biggest energy-producing college in the world. The excess energy Butte generates will become a positive source of income for the college, according to Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College's president.
"Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do," Dr. Van Der Ploeg stated. "Being the first grid positive community college in the country demonstrates our commitment to the sustainable practices we're modeling for our students and our communities."
The addition of 15,000 new solar panels, recently approved by the Board of Trustees to allow completion of Butte's Phase III Solar Project, will put the college over the edge in terms of sustainability firsts. These panels will be added to the 10,000 already in place to produce enough solar energy to power over 92,000 average-sized homes. Dr. Van Der Ploeg explains, "Once this solar project is completed, Butte College will provide enough clean, renewable energy to cover all of our electricity needs and generate slightly more than we use."
The new solar panels will be placed on rooftops and create covered parking areas and pedestrian walkways. The funding of the project, which totals about $17 million, will be paid for through Clean Renewable Energy Bonds and by the college. The school will also receive rebates from PG&E, the California Solar Initiative, and money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts is another school moving toward a campus committed to sustainable living. In a recent application for the 2008 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award, Cape Cod has listed some of the following accomplishments:
- A low mow/no mow policy that transforms manicured lawn areas to natural meadow environments
- A cafeteria composting program that separates compostable products, so natural compost can be made for local farms
- A reduction in paper usage across the campus, with further studies on how to increase paper reduction
- The addition of a solar-powered trash compactor, which dramatically reduces carbon pollution
Cape Cod Community College also hosts numerous educational opportunities to instruct educators, businesses and residents of the community on sustainability principles. This college has received awards and recognition for their commitment to an environmentally responsible campus.
John Tyler Community College in Massachusetts is also making a number of environmentally-friendly changes, according to one of the college's websites. John Tyler boasts one of the first LEED-registered buildings in the Massachusetts community college network, and the campus is working on other programs to increase sustainability, including:
- Enhanced roofing to improve energy efficiency
- A green housekeeping program
- A paper reduction program across the campus
- A single-stream recycling program
- Alternative transportation options
John Tyler Community College calls its sustainability program Revive, a program to teach the community how to recycle, reuse, reduce and restore for a greener planet.
In Arizona, Chandler-Gilbert Community College is doing its part by integrating environmental awareness and sustainability into its campus. According to the college website, Chandler-Gilbert was a charter signatory on the American College and University President's Climate Commitment. They were also one of four colleges nationwide to earn the 2007 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award.
Colleges across the country are going green, although many will journey on a long road to catch up to the accomplishments of Butte College in California. For students heading off to community college, it is rewarding to know that the campus they choose may be doing their part to eliminate their carbon footprint and teach their students and surrounding communities how to do the same.