WCU recognized again for sustainability efforts in Princeton Review’s ‘Guide to Green Colleges’

Students enjoy a sunny day at WCU’s Electron Garden on the Green, a power-producing 10-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system and hammock hanging lounge.

Western Carolina University has been listed by The Princeton Review as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America for the ninth consecutive year.

WCU is included in the 2019 edition of the education services company’s “Guide to Green Colleges.” The guide profiles 413 higher education institutions that were found to have strong commitments to green practices and programs during the company’s survey of nearly 700 schools. Criteria for making the guide included the schools’ academic offerings and initiatives, campus policies and practices, and green career preparation for students.

“These schools are standouts for their exemplary commitments to sustainability,” said Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review. “With initiatives ranging from solar-powered residence halls and tray-less dining halls to robust offerings in environmental studies, they are, each in their own ways, outstanding institutions for students seeking to study and live at a green college.”

Franek said a company survey indicated a high level of interest among college applicants and their parents in environmental and sustainability issues. This year, 64 percent of the 11,900 teens and parents polled said having information about a college’s commitment to the environment would affect their decision to apply to, or attend, a school.

WCU’s inclusion on the “green colleges” list comes as the campus community is holding a series of programs and events in conjunction with the university learning theme for academic year 2019-20 – “Sustainability and Environment.” The campus theme committee is accepting requests for support for spring semester programs and events through Jan. 30, and requests must be submitted through the form found at go.wcu.edu/campustheme.

Lauren Bishop, WCU’s chief sustainability officer in the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management, said highlights of the university’s green efforts include the work of David King, the campus energy manager. “He has accomplished major goals with our energy conservation efforts and has saved WCU a significant amount of money,” Bishop said.

King said WCU this year is expected to surpass $1 million in total avoided costs due to investments in metering and energy saving projects since 2013. “House Bill 1292 allows us to reinvest any documented energy savings into future energy-related projects, which creates a positive feedback loop as savings grow and allows us to replace antiquated equipment that’s well beyond its shelf life,” he said.

“Our most recent project at the Health and Human Sciences Building takes the classroom schedule from 25Live (a space reservation software used by faculty and staff) and pushes it down to the building automation system that controls the heating and cooling, which can account for 40 to 50 percent of a building’s energy usage,” King said. “The result is that we are not heating and cooling unoccupied spaces; instead, we’re conditioning spaces based on actual class schedules instead of a general schedule at the building level. Combined with a previous building tune-up and optimization project, energy usage has been reduced 25 percent and $50,000 per year at HHS compared to its first year of operation in 2012.”

Bishop also cited the work of the Sustainable Energy Initiative, a student committee “that continues to show strong leadership on campus,” and the efforts of Dana Brown, WCU’s new recycling coordinator, who is “making major process improvements to help meet our recycling goals.” One example of that is the implementation of a 50 percent diversion rate for all demolition projects on campus, Bishop said.

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