Voices for Biodiversity

Universities Turn to Green Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At least seven colleges and universities now receive 100 percent of the electricity they use from green power sources, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Earlier this year, the EPA’s Green Power Partnership (GPP) announced its top partner rankings, including colleges and universities. The top twenty partners in education represent the institutions that purchased the most green and sustainable energy to support their general operations.

The Green Power Partnership is a program that provides expertise and logistical and technical support to organizations, companies, institutes and community groups that want to reduce their carbon footprints, lower costs of buying electricity and become leaders in environmental protection. Green power sources include wind, solar, biomass and biofuels, and low-impact hydropower. Percentages and other statistics from participants are updated quarterly.

“Addressing climate risk is increasingly recognized as an important strategic issue for businesses and other organizations,” states the GPP website. “Green power purchasing can reduce your organization’s climate risk and identify your organization as an environmental leader to important stakeholder groups, such as customers, Wall Street analysts, shareholders, investors, government officials, and employees.”

The colleges and universities that purchase 100 percent – or more, in some cases – of their electricity from such sources include Oregon State University, Drexel University, University of California in Santa Cruz, American University, the Catholic University of America, Auraria Higher Education Center, Western Washington University and Quinnipiac University. Many of these schools choose to participate in this program as part of larger, school-wide commitments to become carbon neutral or to help slow climate change.

For example, in addition to purchasing green energy, Oregon State uses a portable solar trailer, developed by several students as a Student Sustainability Initiative senior project in 2007, to collect and store solar energy to use on campus and at various community events. Oregon is also one of the first universities to use, collect and store human energy from workout machines to supplement electricity from the grid. With twenty-two elliptical machines set up to harness energy, this is one of the largest such installations in the world.

Drexel University, too, has a larger commitment to conservation, known as the Drexel Green Initiative. Not only does the school operate on 100 percent wind power, but it also uses biodiesel fuel to operate its fleet of university buses, recycles 25 percent of all waste generated on campus, and purchases hybrids for its official university vehicles.

The GPP encourages both for- and non-profit organizations, companies, schools, government organizations and others to accept the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint and join the program.

For more information on the Green Power Partnerships program, please visit the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/index.htm.

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