A different kind of March Madness

March Madness is usually associated with college basketball, but this year it also refers to the Sustainable 16 - campuses that are being honored for their environmental awareness.

Environmental software provider Enviance, Inc. and Environmental Leader said the 16 universities "exemplify excellence in environmental academics," according to this press release from Enviance. The campuses are vying to be "National Champion" in the first-ever March Madness Tournament for Environmental Studies. To qualify, they filled out a survey detailing their credentials, which was then evaluated by a panel of expert judges.

Two California schools - University of California, Davis, and Humboldt State University - are among the 16. Here and here are ways the two campuses are leading the green charge. However, they are hardly alone. This special edition from CSU Leader outlines how the California State University system is helping train the green workforce. And here is an update from the UC system.

Corporations also are getting into the act, creating sustainability departments (green teams) and pledging to reduce their carbon footprints. And then there is the military: The Department of Defense is swiftly greening up its act, in part because its dependence upon oil is deemed a security risk and because going green saves lives and money. Read more here, here and here.

Like many initiatives, the green movement will grow in fits and starts, influenced by politics and economics. Still, the cost of renewable energy such as solar is dropping so fast that parity with fossil fuels is within reach, and governments in the western U.S. have unified support of green jobs, according to this post.

How will higher gas prices and the specter of climate change fit into all this? That's something that I, a resident of California's Central Valley, would love to know. The Valley is a main character in climate expert Heidi Cullen's book, "The Weather of the Future. You think the Valley is hot and dry and has bad air quality now....

Today's young adults have a lot on their plate, but they also know they have to lead. As my favorite environmental rap superhero from Cal Poly told us: "We are at the point in time where we are on top of a mountain. If we continue our path, we will fall down and kill the earth. If we rethink our path, we can safely travel back down the mountain..."

Photos: Humboldt State University by Humboldt.edu

Greenhouse at UC Davis environmental garden by UC Davis