Higher education institutions play a paramount role in the promotion and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)) developed by the United Nations. Education leaders can increase and promote recycling awareness among students and faculty as well as implementing other sustainable practices. Colleges and universities can achieve the reduction of their ecological footprint well beyond standards by pursuing and improving a sustainable campus.
To get you started, here are seven sustainable practices that will make your campus greener and smarter.
Recycling old furniture and buying second-hand ones can be easy and affordable:
This is a sustainable way to add character and uniqueness to your college or university. If there is a need for a new desk or bookshelf in one of the university offices, rather than buying a new one you can find second-hand furniture; older desks are usually much better in quality and design than new ones. It also sends a positive message to students who can adopt the practice in their own home
Setting up colorful recycling stations around campus makes it easy for everyone to recycle glass, aluminum, plastic water bottles, metal crap, paper, cardboard, and batteries. Penn State University recycles over 7.6 million water bottles per year. In the United States, only about 24 percent of disposable plastic bottles are recycled
Water refill stations:
Install water refill stations around campus and dorms to help reduce single-use plastic bottles. At Penn State University, there are over 100 water bottle refilling stations installed at University Part and several at the Commonwealth Campuses
Reducing food waste:
Each day, individuals generate a lot of food waste that could be avoided. Some colleges and universities have started food waste and composting programs. By getting rid of the trays, some institutions encourage students to only get the food that they will eat or fits on their plates. Others encourage the use of reusable containers so students can take leftovers back to their dorms. The institutions with campus gardens use leftovers to turn them into soil
Install solar cells on the university’s rooftops. Installing automatic movement sensors to switch off lights in buildings and areas which are not in use can greatly reduce energy consumption
Plant trees/start a campus garden:
Planting trees can be a rewarding project not only for the students and faculty participating in the project today but for the future generations and the community as a whole. Create a small garden on campus planting flowers, bushes, and grow apple trees from apple seeds. A tree planting day celebrating a class graduation will see trees growing as graduates advance in their career. You can plant trees around campus, in the community, even create a small fruit garden or small forest! Campus gardens are a growing trend. At the University of Louisville’s Garden Commons, any student, faculty, or staff member who helps can enjoy part of the harvest. This is a great way of learning about urban growing, organic agriculture, and sustainable food systems
Recycling electronics has countless environmental benefits. Anything from old or broken mobile phones, computers, monitors can be taken to a local recycling center and placed in an e-waste bin. Functioning electronics can be donated to charity. Electronics manufacturers such as Apple have a recycling program and everyone can take old Apple or Android devices to be recycled for free. Apple also has a trade-in program for Apple devices; if the product qualifies for trading, they will give you a gift card that can be used to buy a new one, and if the device is too old they will recycle it for free.
For more on the Sustainable University Series read Key Elements of a Sustainable University.