UConn ranked 5th greenest school in U.S.
Published: Sunday, August 26, 2012
Updated: Sunday, August 26, 2012 23:08
UConn was recently rated the fifth most environmentally friendly college on the Sierra Club’s Top 10 “Cool Schools” for 2012. This is a large jump from 16th last year and 49th two years ago.
This ranking is based on the university’s commitment to making “earth-saving decisions,” according to the Sierra Club’s website. It recognizes UConn’s commitment to sustainability, environmental initiatives and focus on sustainability-focused academics, according to a UConn Today article.
“UConn’s top five ranking underscores how sustainability has become part of the culture of our campus and we’re pleased to be recognized for our efforts,” said Susan Herbst, president of UConn in a UConn Today article.
“As a land and sea grant university, excellent environmental stewardship is one of our fundamental values,” she added.
Prabhakar Singh, director of the UConn Center for Clean Energy Engineering said the entire UConn community takes the credit for the increased ranking, through recycling, reducing the carbon footprint and changing the culture.
He also commends the visions of UConn Provost Mun Choi and President Herbst.
“We are very successful because of all the help we have received from UConn,” he said.
Rich Miller, director of the Office of Environmental Policy at UConn, attributes the jump up the rankings to projects that were proposed three years ago that have now been implemented.
“Environmental plans and proposals from three years ago have become completed projects with real results and progress to report,” he said.
These include UConn’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2010, which has now had several projects implemented.
“The Climate Action Plan has been the centerpiece of our environmental sustainability progress for the past few years,” said Miller. “President Herbst’s ongoing support of the plan and its specific goals and strategies has been vital to our continued rise in the rankings.”
UConn has also been developing energy and transportation programs that contribute toward UConn’s high ranking on the Cool Schools list this year. These initiatives are also saving money for the university.
One of the things the Sierra Club highlights is UConn’s composting program. It process up to 15 truckloads of manure per a week, according to the Sierra Club’s website. They also highlight UConn’s extensive recycling programs and awareness.
UConn replaced the lighting systems at 73 buildings and completed “retro-commissioning” projects at 13 buildings, which improved the buildings’ HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems so they maximize at maximum efficiency. These two projects don’t only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5,000 tons; they also save UConn $1 million in energy costs, according to Miller.
UConn also modified the way it produces energy for the entire campus, by installing a new 400 kW UTC Power Fuel Cell. This fuel cell is very efficient and uses clean natural gas, reducing carbon monoxide and other emission, according to Singh.
Finally, UConn used a $75,000 grant to purchase an all-electric fleet vehicle to replace a diesel truck used for deliveries around campus.
Students at UConn are excited to be a student at the fifth most environmentally school in the nation.
“Every campus wants to try and be as eco-friendly as possible and it’s great to see that UConn is right up thewre with other schools who are leading in sustainability,” said Jennifer Kruzansky, a 6th-semester allied health sciences major.
“It’s also awesome to see it because the eco-friendly clubs on campus I’m involved in have a hand in getting UConn to that ranking, so it’s a pretty nice reward. Sustainability is such a big top right now and UConn getting this ranking is something that all students can be proud of,” she added.
UConn is committed to becoming even more ewnvironmentally-friendly in the future.
The UConn Board of Trustees recently approved an environmental studies degree, which will be useful for students interested in studying the environment as it relates to the humanities, social sciences, fine arts or law and policy, acwcording to Miller.
UConn is also going to be “recycling” wastewater, hopefully by early 2012, which will conserve up to 500,000 gallons of drinking water each day. The university is also currently installing its first solar array at the Depot Campus and new farmers’ markets are going to allow students to purchase locally-grown produce right on campus.
Finally, all of the things the Center for Clean Energy Engineering is currently doing could lead to the development of a new smart grid, the backbone for transporting energy and power from the energy system to the user. This new grid, a microgrid will be on a smaller level, and the campus could manage and distribute power in the most efficient way possible, according to Singh.
The rankings were compiled through extensive surveys, according to the Sierra Club’s website.
“It was a very comprehensive survey and compiling the data helped us appreciate how widespread the commitment to environmental awareness and sustainability is at UConn,” said Miller in a UConn Today article.
The survey covers categories from education and research to waste to water to innovation. Out of a total 894.5 points possible, UConn scored 667.
“It’s a great time to be in this field, and I’m hoping some of these things next year and beyond further improve our rank and change ourw student culture, making the students more efficient in ways of thinking, so when they leave UConn they become a steward of these ideas,” said Singh.