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How college campuses around the world are going green

Saving The World: Lessons From Eco-Friendly Colleges

College campuses around the world — including those in India — are switching to sustainable practices. Banning plastic straws and segregating waste into two dust-bins, however, will only go so far. Innovative construction solutions will be an important component in enabling eco-friendly lifestyles, both on college campuses and beyond.

Saving the world is difficult work. And yet scientists are saying that work needs to start right away. UN published a report in 2018 that claimed that Global Warming will cause irreversible damage if we don’t overhaul our energy, consumption, and waste management practices soon. The younger a person, the longer they will live in an environmentally damaged world — therefore, younger people are more likely to worry about climate change. These younger people have started attending college and they have started pushing for change from right where they stand.

Some people are suspicious of today’s college students. They think that colleges have been reduced to 3 extended years of parties, idealism, and learning theoretical knowledge that will take the students nowhere in the real world. But the distance from the real world can also be liberating. It can allow for far-sightedness and long-term vision. And today’s college administrations — often pushed by college students — are turning idealistic beliefs into practical solutions.

Krea University, a new Liberal Arts campus in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, is currently hiring an associate professor to “help shape the institutional pathway for…a sustainable future.” Krea already has solar panels and rain-water harvesting in place — and they are looking to expand their environmental efforts while constructing the newer buildings.

Vellore Institute of Technology houses a centre that specializes in carbon capture and utilization(CCU) — going beyond other institutes that at most focus on carbon capture and storage. VIT also found a unique way to cut power consumption — they replaced 47 physical computer servers with virtual servers. This reduced power consumption by 65%.

Located 11,000 feet above the sea level in the mountains of Ladakh, Secmol, a high-school, deserves special mention. They use the harsh environmental conditions around them to become more eco-conscious, not less. A biogas methane digester is used to generate the heat to prepare food for the students. Their backup energy source? A solar cooker. Graduates of this high-school leave with a deep sensitivity towards the environment and its needs. Shara, a graduate of this school, is now an aspiring architect and a design student. She is trying to figure out how to build sustainable buildings that don’t source their bricks from polluting kilns. Kilns singlehandedly contribute a whopping 7% of global carbon emissions — more than the emissions from all the trucks on road put together. Shara is learning how to build long-term structures from “mud, wood shavings and straw” instead.

SBI Staff College in Hyderabad, a campus where future bank managers get their training, was certified by Indian Green Building Council(IGBC) as India’s first green campus. IGBC measures a building’s ability to conserve natural resources, redirect waste to productive use, and enhance the occupants’ quality of life while being environment-friendly. SBI Staff College ticked the right boxes and scored a gold certificate.

Eco-conscious universities are by no means an Indian phenomenon alone. Middlebury College, an American college that was among the first few in the world to begin offering an Environmental Science major(the accredited degree course began in 1965), revealed an extensive 50-year plan to tackle climate change. This plan included steps to achieving carbon neutrality, reusing building materials while demolition for newer structures, and other measures.

Portland University in the US maintains beehives, seed libraries and a recreation center where people can generate electricity by working out. You read that right — through micro-inverter technology, Portland University’s gym transforms human exertion into electricity that feeds into the college power grid.

University of California, Santa Barbara, has built 12 new fuel stations on campus where Electric Vehicles can be charged.

Arizona State University made a fair trade pledge in 2018. This pledge states that for a product to be sold through a campus shop, it needs to be manufactured by companies who have been certified for their ethical and sustainable practices.

Thus, colleges around the world are saving the world one step at a time. They are doing this not just by creating informed citizens who think critically, vote rationally, and take ownership of the future. Colleges are also systematically decreasing their own carbon footprints. They are eliminating wasteful consumption practices and setting an example for other residential and commercial buildings. But the journey is by no means over.

Sustainable design and eco-friendly construction practices will play a major role in ensuring the success of these first attempts. A lot of colleges around India — from IIM-Indore to Ashoka University — recently banned the use of single-use plastic items like cutlery plates or straws. These efforts deserve applause. These lifestyle changes, however, need to be complemented with eco-conscious buildings and living spaces that will bring out a more comprehensive, long-term change.

Below are some examples of how college campuses can boost their eco-friendly score and liveability:

  1. Moss Walls: The University of Edinburgh has already installed moss walls on its campus for Veterinarian Studies. Moss is one of the oldest plant species and requires almost no maintenance. It can remain dormant for years and spring back to life upon contact with water. Moss has been shown to reduce CO2 levels in indoor air by up to 220% in a matter of days. These moss walls are starting to pop up in outdoor spaces as well.

2. More Windows, Less Walls: It’s every university’s job to set optimal learning conditions. For a lot of universities, this means creating tech-enabled classrooms. From benches equipped with mics to WiFi Projectors, universities are competing to be the first to bring technological solutions to their students. But what if these “smart” classrooms were actually dumb? Research has shown that a very simple way to boost the cognitive performance of a group of people is to increase the daylight in the room. When this happens, the average math score increases by 20% and the average reading score increases by 26%. So maybe the kids don’t need Alexa in the classrooms — maybe they just need old-fashioned sunlight.

3. Be Woke About VOC: VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These compounds are found in low-quality paint and they react with oxygen in the air to create ozone. This is a recipe for asthma attacks and worse. Simply using VOC-free paint can go a long way in reducing indoor air pollution.

To implement these methods, you need a construction partner who believes in your mission to be more eco-friendly in 2020. AMs is that partner for you. We use raw materials that are friendly to the environment. We conduct extensive research to find out the best ways in which your project can decrease its carbon footprint, reuse resources when possible, and enhance the liveability for the occupants. Contact us today @ insert phone number or email to build cost-effective infrastructural projects that create a positive impact in the natural world around them.

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