August 23, 2009

CU Boulder, couch-burning capitol of the US of A, named #1 green university.

Number 1 party school (red solo cups on every lawn)

…and Number 1 Green university (solar decathalon).

For two months, every dumpster on the University Hill, where I live in Boulder, Colorado, has, week after week, literally overflowed with nearly-new mattresses, sofas, chairs, tables, lamps, clothes, toxic cleaning supplies…most of it only recently Made (only recently) In China. Biking past it all, my friend Lindsey and I get a daily tour of our out-of-sight out-of-mind American society. So much for generation green.

Or is there opportunity in this inefficient system to save the earth—and make money while doing so? Students leaving, moving, arriving. Someone’s trash is someone else’s bargain.

Why isn’t there an effective local (and national?) college program to gather anything and everything useable and resell it in a doubly green, affordable flea market?

A week ago, the students came back to our little fair green hamlet, Boulder, Colorado. Immediately, the Hill has been fire-crackin’ riotous, each night, with beautiful young people playing games that involve getting sloppy drunk in an oft successful attempt to get up the courage to #!*@#$%^ one another.

Three days ago, I awoke to a burned-up foam and wood and metal and plastic couch on the corner of my block. Seven days later, it’s still there, half in the street.

And…three days ago…the Sierra Club announced that we’ve got the greenest-est school in the nation. So—CU ain’t just the number one party school in the country, the Solo Cup capitol of the world, the HQ of the Sisterly / Brotherly order of Couch Burners. CU is also, somehow, the most forward-looking  school community out there.

It’s nice to remember that the students at CU are, in fact, doing things differently, better, more efficiently, and in a greener fashion than any other school—and that a great deal of that mindful, inspired, eco-responsible action is motivated by some of the same students who, come nightfall, turn into beer-bonging couch-burning SUV-speeding crazies.

Ah, Boulder. Ah, Generation “Green.” ~ ed.

I’ve bolded below parts of CU’s press release that I find particularly inspiring.


CU-Boulder Named Top ‘Green’ University in the Nation by Sierra Magazine

August 20, 2009

The University of Colorado at Boulder is ranked the top “green” university in the nation this year by Sierra magazine in its September/October edition, a move up from second place in 2008.

Universities trailing CU-Boulder in the top five are the University of Washington at Seattle, Middlebury College, the University of Vermont and the College of the Atlantic. In the report’s three-year history, CU-Boulder remains the only Colorado institution to appear in the Top 10 featured lineup of “eco-enlightened” U.S. colleges.

Results were compiled from a 39-question survey measuring sustainable practices and initiatives in the categories of academics, administration, efficiency, energy, food, purchasing, transportation and waste management. Bonus points, of which CU-Boulder received five, were possible for “green” activities not covered by the questionnaire. CU-Boulder came out strongest in the areas of transportation and waste management and its overall score was 100 — the highest possible rating — according to the evaluation performed by the official magazine of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest environmental nonprofit.

“This ranking is not a surprise, but it is a wonderful tribute to the hard work of our students, faculty, staff and administrators,” said Phil DiStefano, chancellor of CU-Boulder. “Over the course of the last nearly six decades they have made sustainability a campus priority, and have done the hard work to make it a reality.”

The Sierra feature article includes a contribution by CU-Boulder senior Dan Omasta, an environmental studies and political science major, who highlights the founding of the student-led Environmental Center in 1970 and the alternative transportation options available to students including bus passes, the ski bus and a free bike-share program. Omasta also mentions CU-Boulder’s use of biofuels in university vehicles.

“This award arises out of many tough decisions, numerous partnerships, and some very smart policies,” said Frank Bruno, vice chancellor for administration at CU-Boulder. “Our commitment to sustainability is long-standing, and it is renewed by the fresh ideas of our students and our employees, and the commitment of the chancellor and the leadership of the campus.”

CU-Boulder’s leadership in sustainability spans nearly six decades with rigorous academic offerings in the Environmental Studies Program as well as the integration of environmental studies into other fields including architecture and planning, business, law, journalism and others. CU-Boulder offers 14 degree programs, nine majors and four certificate programs in or related to environmental studies.

CU-Boulder is renowned for the ongoing pursuit of technical and policy advancements through faculty research at numerous institutes and centers including the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, the Center for Research and Education in Wind and others. Several CU-Boulder research faculty from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for their contributions to the international report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

CU-Boulder is tops in the nation in the number of scientific publications on environmental research. And it is one of the nation’s top three universities in receiving funding for environmental research, according to the National Science Foundation.

Also considered in the Sierra analysis were CU-Boulder’s commitment to LEED efficiency standards in campus building renovations and all new construction, the “Ralphie’s Green Stampede” initiative that transformed Folsom Field into a zero-waste facility in 2008 and extensive student-operated recycling that dates back to 1973.

“The students of the University of Colorado are the heart and soul of our sustainability efforts and have been leaders in environmental stewardship for nearly 60 years,” said Dave Newport, director of CU’s Environmental Center. “The partnerships among administrators, students, faculty and staff build on that commitment and extend it across campus. While I have no doubt that any of the top 20 campuses mentioned in Sierra’s ranking are worthy of a No. 1 rating, I think the award recognizes CU’s 60-year history of cooperative synergies as the symbol of true environmental leadership.”

CU-Boulder’s most recent administrative push toward sustainability comes with the drafting of a four-phase strategy for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the next 40 years. Work on the draft has been under way since CU signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in February 2007. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s “Greening of State Government” executive order issued in April 2007 complements CU’s climate action planning but the climate action plan exceeds the governor’s charge in a number of areas including the “Sustainability Action Teams” formed in June by Bruno.

“CU-Boulder’s past achievements in sustainability are exciting, but for us, they merely represent inspiration to achieve even greater things in the future,” DiStefano said. “The governor’s challenge to us and to our Sustainability Action Teams is the kind of opportunity we relish to rally our community.”

Teams comprised of faculty, staff and students will focus on data collection, energy and water, materials and recycling in gathering information, creating and implementing programs to reach the stated goals.

“We have a legacy of leadership here that is constantly looking ahead to the next milestone,” Newport said. “The Sustainability Action Teams will help us take sustainability to the next level, further innovating the kinds of permanent practices that match our permanent culture of environmental action.”

An internal review of CU-Boulder’s draft plan is currently under way and a public release is expected this fall.

For more information about CU-Boulder’s sustainability programs and initiatives visit www.colorado.edu/news/reports/sustainability and www.colorado.edu/sustainability.


Approaching Six Decades of Environmental Leadership at CU-Boulder

For more than half a century, CU-Boulder has been a leader in pursuing and providing world-class climate and energy research, environmental studies, the integration of environmental coursework into a variety of fields and degrees, and aggressive plans for campus sustainability. From classrooms and lecture halls to research centers, event facilities, residence halls and the community, decades of CU-Boulder students, faculty, staff and administrators have carried on a commitment to knowledge, innovation, solutions and everyday actions for environmental stewardship.

1951 A major in Conservation Education is offered through the joint Department of Geography and Geology with a required interdisciplinary set of coursework in geography, biology, journalism and communication. In 1972, the major is replaced as Environmental Conservation and continues to be interdisciplinary but shifts to a more science-based curriculum.

1951 The Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research is established with origins extending back to the Mountain Laboratory (est. 1909) and University Camp (est. 1914 and renamed the Mountain Research Station in 1951), as a global field facility developing scientific knowledge of physical and biogeochemical processes.

1957 The National Snow and Ice Data Center begins as the World Data Center for Glaciology to archive data from Earth’s frozen regions and evolves as part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences to conduct research around the world, archive data and provide international educational opportunities.

1967 The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences is established and provides collaborative research and education in a broad range of environmental sciences aimed at sustainability.

1970 The nation’s first student-led environmental center is established on Earth Day.

1976 The nation’s first collegiate student-led recycling program begins.

1981 CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research begins administering the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research site, one of 26 areas in North America where the National Science Foundation is funding studies by faculty and students of natural and human-caused changes occurring over decades and centuries.

1982 The Natural Resources Law Center is founded as an academic program and forum for intellectual discourse over matters of natural resources law and to drive objective and practical solutions to problems in the field.

1991 CU students are among the first in the nation to negotiate prepaid bus passes.

1992 Recycling processing facility is built on campus.

1992 The Center for Environmental Journalism is established for seasoned and student journalists to pursue coursework and knowledge of the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of environmental journalism as well as elevated quality, range and depth of work in the field.

1994 The first Campus Earth Summit is held.

1997 The Environmental Conservation major is moved from the Department of Geography and Geology to the Office of Environmental Studies as a stand-alone, interdisciplinary program. Today, environmental coursework also is offered by the College of Architecture and Planning, College of Arts and Sciences, Leeds School of Business, College of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Law. CU-Boulder offers 14 degree programs, nine majors and four certificate programs in or related to environmental studies.

1997 CU-Boulder’s “Green Teams” begin targeting the Hill and other student-populated areas in the city of Boulder to increase proper recycling.

1998 CU-Boulder incorporates sustainability provisions for facilities into the Campus Master Plan.

2000 Students vote to purchase renewable wind-energy credits to match power used in all major campus construction after 2000, making CU-Boulder the first university in the nation to purchase wind energy.

2001 Graduate degrees in Environmental Studies are offered.

2001 Energy education campaign begins. A Resource Conservation Officer position is created. Campus energy use decreases for the first time in 10 years.

2002 The Office of Campus Resource Conservation is established to evaluate and implement economically feasible technological breakthroughs and solutions to reduce CU-Boulder’s environmental footprint and promote sustainable capital construction practices.

2006 A zero-waste vision is incorporated into CU-Boulder’s Blueprint for a Green Campus.

2006 The ATLAS building is completed and receives a gold rating for green building design by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program for sustainable architecture. All future construction and renovations on campus are required to attain at least a silver rating in LEED standards.

2006 CU-Boulder’s Energy Initiative is established to pursue energy research, education and technology commercialization, and forms the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute in 2009.

2007 CU-Boulder research faculty from the National Snow and Ice Data Center share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for their contributions to the international report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

2007 CU-Boulder is a founding member of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a launching pad for new state research centers involving CU-Boulder, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to create renewable energy technologies, management systems and efficiency, and to generate educational opportunities and economic growth in Colorado.

2007 Chancellor G.P. “Bud” Peterson signs the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and the CU student government becomes the first entity to pledge to carbon neutrality in all University of Colorado Student Union-run buildings, in conjunction with the commitment.

2007 The Chancellor’s Committee on Energy, Environment and Sustainability is established to serve as the steering committee for implementing campuswide environmental strategies and programs.

2007 CU-Boulder’s recycling collection exceeds 2,000 tons (4 million pounds). Funding is provided to begin a feasibility study of relocating or expanding CU-Boulder’s recycling facility.

2008 UCSU requires all student-funded food/dining events to be zero-waste and CU Dining Services eliminates plastic bags from grab-and-go meals and distributes free reusable bags to all incoming residence hall students.

2008 UCSU becomes the first customer of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s Colorado Carbon Fund, a local offsets broker. As such, $90,000 in student dollars over two years is projected for new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for statewide emission reduction.

2008 The CU Athletics Department commits to zero-waste from football games.

2009 CU launches an aggressive, three-year conservation campaign under the direction of Chancellor Phil DiStefano to reduce energy, cut paper, water and petroleum use, and transition to a zero-waste campus.

2010 The CU Environmental Center will turn 40 years old.



Dave Newport, CU Environmental Center, 303-492-8309
[email protected]
Bronson Hilliard, CU spokesperson, 303-735-6183
Elizabeth Lock, CU News Services, 303-492-3117
[email protected]

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