WCU featured in green college guide

For the second year in a row, Western Carolina University is included among The Princeton Review’s list of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America.

The education services company selected WCU for inclusion in the third annual edition of its “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition.” The guide was released in conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22.

Created by The Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the book is billed as the only free, comprehensive guidebook profiling institutions of higher education that demonstrate a notable commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.

The Princeton Review chose the institutions based on a survey of administrators at hundreds of colleges that the company polled in 2011 about their school’s sustainability initiatives.

“Inclusion of Western Carolina University in this guide confirms that we are making great strides in becoming a more environmentally friendly campus,” said Lauren Bishop, campus energy manager. “Our students, faculty and staff are to be commended for their efforts in energy conservation, preservation of resources and recycling.”

WCU’s profile in the new guide discusses the success of the campuswide energy conservation program called “Reducing Our Carbon Paw Print” that resulted in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in energy usage on campus through behavior modification alone, including a 34 percent reduction in BTU per square foot compared to 2002-03 levels.

The guide also notes a 15 percent reduction in petroleum usage in five years at WCU through the introduction of six neighborhood electric vehicles and by switching to E10, a blend of ethanol and unleaded gas, to power the campus fleet.

The book cites the fact that all new construction larger than 20,000 square feet is required to meet the United States Green Building Council standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification.

This includes the 160,000-square-foot Health and Human Sciences Building now under construction on the university’s West Campus. The building includes an array of environmental and sustainability features as part of its design, from ample natural lighting to use of recycled materials in its construction. In addition, renovations to the 40-year-old Harrill Residence Hall, currently under way, may enable the building to qualify for LEED certification.

The Princeton Review first created the resource for college-bound students in 2010 with the U.S. Green Building Council, which is known for developing the LEED standard for green building certification. In 2010, USGBC launched its Center for Green Schools to increase its efforts to drive change in how campuses and schools are designed, constructed and operated so that all educational facilities can enhance student learning experiences.

“College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president for publishing at The Princeton Review. “Among 7,445 college applicants who participated in our spring 2012 ‘College Hopes & Worries Survey,’ nearly 7 out of 10 said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school.”

Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, said the guide provides a good resource for future college students for whom sustainability is an important factor. “In this unique period of time during their college search, prospective students and their parents have a combined buying power of at least $464 billion,” Gutter said. “Colleges and universities need to demonstrate a deep commitment to the 68 percent of students who say that a school’s commitment to sustainability is part of their decision-making process.”

The free guide can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide.aspx and www.centerforgreenschools.org/greenguide.

For more information about WCU’s sustainability efforts, contact Lauren Bishop at lbishop@wcu.edu or 828-227-3562.