August 15, 2010
Tucked away in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills is a community college making national headlines for its sustainability efforts.
Butte College, which rests on a 928 acre wildlife refuge, has declared it will be grid positive — producing more clean energy than it uses — by May 2011.
Since 2005, Butte College has made steps toward this ultimate goal by installing 10,000 solar photovoltaic panels, but this announcement marks the installation of an additional 15,000 panels to be mounted on the ground and rooftops, as well as the college’s plan to create covered parking areas and walkways.
According to the college, it will generate over 6.381 million kW hours per year — enough electricity to power over 9,200 average-sized homes, or the equivalent of removing over 6,000 passenger cars from the roadways.
When all of the college’s solar projects are combined, the college will have a yearly reduction of over 6.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), 27,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2), and 20,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide (NOX).
“Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. 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,” Butte President Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg said in a press release.
And it’s true: From the grounds the campus sits on to its ecological facilities design to the courses offered, sustainability truly is at the heart of Butte College, as well as its students and surrounding community.
The Student Alliance for Sustainability (SAS) is a group of devoted students that work to advance sustainable causes. They do this through fundraising campaigns and a number of on campus events such as Campus Sustainability Day and hosting an Energy Awareness Fair.
Upon graduation, many students take the Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility that states, “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organization for which I work.”
And they mean it. In fact many of the workers on the solar project are apprentices who went through the college’s solar installation training program.
According to Mike Miller, Butte College Director of Facilities, Planning and Management, “this project directly employs local people, local vendors and provides a huge economic shot in the arm for Butte County.”
This landmark project not only sets the bar at a higher standard for environmental responsibility for academic institutions, but also for promoting a growing green economy.
And while this type of endeavor may not be possible at other institutions (for varying reasons), on the whole, colleges and universities across the nation are advancing green efforts in whatever ways they can.
Arizona State University has created a School of Sustainability — the first of its kind in the United States — that offers “transdisciplinary degree programs focused on finding practical solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges.”
The University of California, Berkley has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2014, and the University of Maryland – College Park has enacted an ambitious carbon action plan to reach carbon neutrality on campus by 2050.
And the list goes on and on. To read more about what other colleges and universities are doing to promote a green lifestyle, check out the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll.
Until next time,
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