College Students Getting Energized Over Green Campuses

We here at the nonprofit San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization in California see an increasing awareness in all things green. The military, professional sports and Big Business are already on board, and schools - and by extension, their students - are right behind.

I spent much of last week in Eugene, OR, where my daughter is a sophomore environmental studies major at University of Oregon. I noticed this story about the campus committing to limiting energy consumption, and then got to wondering:

How important in a student's college selection process is the university's commitment to sustainability?

As it turns out, it is getting more important. Nearly 70 percent of college applicants this year said it would factor into their decision. That is up from 64 percent in 2008, according to USA Today.

Cost and academic reputation still top the list, but an environmental awareness is important, according to a Maine college student interviewed by USA Today. My own daughter echoed that sentiment, saying "if all other things were equal" the university with the strongest environmental commitment would win out.

The Princeton Review, which ranks universities, recognized the growing environmental awareness, and publishes a green guide. Here is a link to this year's list of 311 schools. (University of Oregon is on the list) and to an accompanying press release.

To us, going green also includes energy efficiency. And schools across the country (check out what is happening in California here) are taking steps similar to University of Oregon to reduce their carbon footprints, and to reduce their power bills. The federal government is strongly behind that effort, as evidenced by a $30 million commitment to 24 campuses, including San Francisco and San Diego state universities. The money will be used to train engineering students to slash energy consumption in manufacturing processes.

Young people helped end the war in Vietnam and are making a difference in the Middle East. Collectively, they are a force to be reckoned with. It remains to be seen how much noise they make about clean energy, but clearly it is becoming a higher priority.

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