University of Oregon

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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The Road to California's First Solar Highway?

California is a big state, and I've traveled most of it. I started my career at the extreme north, lived for a while near the south end and ended up in the middle. My sister is in the Bay area and my daughter attends University of Oregon, so I'm on Interstate 5 and Highway 101 quite a bit.

Those ribbons of roadway provide a wonderful service, transporting people and commerce. But I've often wondered: isn't there more we can do with them? Could they perform some sort of double duty?

Maybe they can. A proposed pilot project involving the state Department of Transportation would use solar panels along freeway interchanges to generate power. The sites are between Gilroy and San Jose on Highway 101.

Read more about them here, here and here.

The idea of solar roads isn't new. In fact, Oregon completed the nation's first one in 2008 at Interstates 5 and 205 (pictured above), and The Netherlands is paving bike paths with solar panels. Learn more here and here.

California seems like an ideal place to test the concept of solar roads. It has more sunny days than Oregon, and a mandate of 33 percent renewables. Gov. Brown, in his green jobs plan, endorsed the creation of a solar highway.

The pilot project would be in the Bay area, but I would love to see a test in the San Joaquin Valley, where temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer and highways shoot through large stretches of undeveloped countryside.

The Valley has rich solar potential. Dozens of projects are on the drawing boards, and more farmers are using solar arrays to help run their dairies and packinghouses. We are hearing more about solar panels on rooftops and on parking garages. Solar panels are already over our vehicles; maybe soon they'll be under them as well.

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Fresno State University Is Showcase of Green, According to College Guide

With a world-famous water institute and the largest solar-paneled parking structure on any U.S. college campus, California State University, Fresno, is a showcase for clean and renewable energy.

As a result, it has appeared for the first time in Princeton Review's Guide to 311 green colleges in the United States and Canada. The guide does not rank the campuses, but lists them alphabetically with highlights of their green features.

Princeton Review noted the energy-efficiency features of the new Henry Madden Library, the solar parking structure and the innovation of the International Center for Water Technology, which, among other things, has helped Fresno State slash irrigated water use by one third.

"California State University, Fresno, is an impressive green campus in an impressive green state," the review states.

California State University, Stanislaus, and University of The Pacific also are featured in the guide. The publication highlights the Master's in Ecology and Sustainability at CSU Stanislaus, and the $4 million that faculty at UOP in Stockton received for environmental research since 2005.

Other college campuses profiled in the guide are Cal Poly, Pomona (methane from a landfill helps power the school); California College of The Arts in San Francisco (70% waste-diversion rate); Chico State (Sierra Club's "cool list"); California State universities Humboldt and Monterey Bay (both have revolving energy funds) and several University of California campuses, including Riverside (Center for Environmental Research & Technology and Center for Sustainability & Suburban Development.)>

My Alma mater, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, was not featured in this year's guide, but University of Oregon (Sustainability Leadership Academy), where my daughter is an environmental studies major, was included.

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