A Green Apple for the Teacher

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By Lisa Cohn

By news accounts Barack Obama is all the rage on college campuses these days. But there is another less reported campus movement that could considerably boost the energy efficiency industry.

College students nationwide have mounted a serious campaign to clean up the nation’s energy supply. And they are starting in their own backyards – or rather dorm rooms. Nudged by these students, college administrations are installing co-generation, switching to more efficient lighting, and undertaking other initiatives to reduce energy use.

Students are not just organizing on their own college campuses, but are forming coalitions of several schools to improve their clout. One of the most interesting organizations is the Energy Action Coalition, comprised of 50 student groups.

Energy Action brings some fun to the otherwise staid energy industry. For example, on Valentine’s Day, group members in Michigan sent love notes to legislators to push a green energy agenda. Among other things, the students sought a 2% annual increase in energy efficiency through 2015.

Next the group plans to revamp the sometimes decadent spring-break-at-the-beach tradition. Energy Action is organizing trips to coal states where members will learn more about the industry, help in river clean-up and engage in some good-old fashion college fun – protests. In particular, they plan to take on planned coal-fired projects.

College administrators at several schools say that student action is influencing their energy decisions. Indeed, college presidents themselves are becoming a force in the climate change movement. About one-quarter of the nation’s colleges have signed on to the American College & University Presidents Cli­mate Commitment. The program requires that campuses create a plan to become carbon neutral within a specified time.

Many are finding that efficiency is the cheapest and quickest way to reach the goal.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has set up a rating system to judge college green achievements. This time it is the colleges who are being graded – and the students are watching just how well they will do.

Visit energy writer Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets newsletter.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.