Colleges and universities across the U.S. are on the cutting edge of sustainability, creating applications, tools, machines and programs that connect faculty, staff and students with business leaders or community members to solve tough problems with technology. The campuses below are just a few examples of sustainability innovation at work.
- Portland State University, Portland, Oregon organizes and manages sustainability initiatives and activities across campus through three main channels: the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the central hub promoting curricula and research, as well as student leadership, to support the cause; the Campus Sustainability Office, responsible for coordinating resource conservation campus-wide; and the Student Sustainability Center, which continually works with the Institute to create opportunities for student engagement and leadership like the recent Solutions Generator in 2013 that funded student design efforts and facilitated creative student-led ideas aimed at changing the world, enabling participants to learn about and work on sustainability on a local scale. Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines worked with faculty, staff and community members on a series of projects during 2013.
- University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia Found trash on your favorite beach? Yup, there’s an app for that. Featured in the 2014 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference video as an “App We Can’t Live Without,” Marine Debris Tracker (a joint partnership of the NOAA Marine Debris Division and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), located within the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia) lets anyone track and report marine litter from anywhere in the world on an iPhone or Android mobile phone, helping beach cleanup efforts and protecting our oceans. Data is easy to upload and can be downloaded in Excel for analysis.
- University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Biofuels, specialty papers for sustainable packaging and value-added uses of agricultural and forestry residuals from processing are just a few of the cool technological advances being studied at the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST). WIST allows educators, students and researchers to collaborate to improve Wisconsin’s economy and environment.
- University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont The University of Vermont’s LEED Platinum Aiken Center, which houses the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, is home to the Eco-Machine, which mimics the natural wastewater treatment process of wetland ecosystems to treat the building’s wastewater. It uses communities of aquatic micro-organisms, invertebrates and wetland plants that work together to recycle sewage so that it can be used again in the building to flush toilets, reducing water consumption. Even better, students are involved with lab work and research associated with this project.
- University of California – San Diego, La Jolla, California The University of California San Diego (UCSD) has an entire Energy Innovation Park, which houses a 2.8-megawatt fuel cell (the largest on any college campus), a sun-tracking photovoltaic array, a compressed natural gas fueling station and more. Through its network of weather forecasting stations, campus researchers and students use wireless meteorological sensors to collect data on temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed, solar radiation and more, and use this information to help improve building efficiency, adjust irrigation needs and find new spots to install solar panels on campus.
- Cornell University, Ithaca, New York Cornell University is more than just hospitable to the idea of sustainability. The university’s School of Hotel Administration and on-campus Statler Hotel worked with Hersha Hospitality to launch EarthView, a sustainability program that catalogs the hotel’s environmental and social programs, including calculating costs and savings and evaluating which new sustainability initiatives might have the most impact.
- University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire The University of New Hampshire is “moo-ving” organic dairy research forward for current dairy farmers who want to transition to organic production, as well as for the farmers of tomorrow. While demand for organic milk and dairy products was growing in New England, no research was being conducted in organic dairy production. In response, working with farmers and local dairy industries, UNH established the first organic dairy research farm at a land grant university in the country, which serves as the site of ongoing research in many disciplines.
- Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina Students and faculty at Appalachian State University are bringing green building technologies to events throughout North Carolina. In 2008, they developed the DAISEE (Driving Appropriate Innovative Sustainable Energy Education), a mobile trailer that showcases sustainable practices using a hands-on approach. The DAISEE has a working wind turbine, photovoltaic panels and solar thermal panels, and showcases green building techniques. It has been used to educate over 150,000 people in renewable energy and energy-efficient building technology.