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Launch a campaign to raise awareness and promote change

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Yes, it's true—college students are the soon to be well-educated leaders of the world. But you don't have to wait 'til you leave the ivory tower to affect change. Student activism thrives on campuses around the country, and with help from long-established student activist initiatives, you can launch a campaign to raise awareness and promote change on your campus and ideally influence not-so-green students and administrations.

How to launch a campaign to raise awareness on campus

There are numerous vital areas—see below for a taste—to tackle through a student campaign. Each one can be tailored to the administration and how the institution is run, and/or to the student body and students' lifestyles.

  • Waste/Recycling/Composting
  • Energy use
  • Water use
  • Transportation
  • Building/Construction

Choose your topic wisely by considering the following:

  • Identify challenges and obstacles.
  • Identify past attempts and failures. There's a lot to learn from a previous efforts. Look into what student groups attempted in the past, what worked, and what didn't. You can stand on the shoulders of those who came before you to create an even more successful campaign.

Schools where students have made a difference

The following is just a sampling of green initiatives taken up by students that eventually made a drastic difference on each respective campus—and on the planet.

The University of New Hampshire: Durham, NH

The University of New Hampshire's Office of Sustainability (UOS) was generated by the grassroots efforts of students, faculty, and staff. Today the UOS is an endowed, university-wide endeavor to integrate the principles of sustainability throughout the whole of the university's scope.[1] UNH is one of only 25 schools that nationally qualifies as a Sustainable Learning Community as recognized by the Sustainable Endowments Institute's College 2008 Sustainability Report Card.[2]

One of the most noteworthy achievements of the UOS is the combined heat and power facility that provides heating and electricity to the 5 million square-foot campus. The new cogeneration (COGEN) plant will make use of the excess heat generated in producing electricity to heat the campus buildings, thereby saving sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.[3] By fall 2008, UNH will be the first university in the US to use landfill gas as its primary source of energy. The purified landfill gas will replace the use of natural gas in the university's COGEN plant, enabling the school to harness 80 to 85 percent of their energy from a renewable source.[4] And to think, this all started as a green grassroots campaign...

Louisiana State University: Baton Rouge, LA

Students in the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) at Louisiana State University drove the Office of Parking, Traffic, and Transportation to rid the campus core of vehicular traffic during class hours, and helped to ease the student body into the transition.[5] The plan made LSU pedestrian-friendly virtually overnight by way of placing gatehouses at ten entry points around campus.[6] The increase in cars on Baton Rouge roads since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 compounds with air pollution problems due to the strip of nearby oil refineries and chemical factories. This semi- "auto ban" promotes alternative methods of transportation in an effort to reduce the university's overall carbon emissions. ECO continues to improve transportation options at LSU by campaigning for a central bike lane and a more robust carpooling system.[7]

Duke University: Durham, NC

In 2002, students at Duke University were none too pleased about diesel emissions produced by the campus buses that burned 200,000 gallons of fuel each year. Environmental Alliance, a group of undergraduates dedicated to promoting the implementation of sustainable practices at Duke,[8] drafted a proposal, which included a cost/benefit analysis of the use of biodiesel in the school's bus fleet. The group recieved a $28,000 grant to pilot the replacement of petrodiesel with B20—a mixture of 20 percent biofuel and low-sulfur diesel. The test was an overwhelming success. By April 2004, the entire fleet was running on B20, reducing particulate emissions by 35 percent. As a result, other schools and institutions are investigating the possibility of the switch. Local community organizations and businesses also responded to the increased demand for biofuel, creating a ripple effect throughout the greater community.[9]

Find it! Resources to guide you in launching a student campaign

Launching a campaign to raise awareness and promote change helps you go green because...

  • It will reduce your school's carbon footprint and, in turn, set an example for other schools.
  • It involves students in making crucial changes to help the environment.

Though most studies indicate that institutions of higher education generate no more than 3 percent of US greenhouse gases,[10] the more than 17 million college students in the US are large energy consumers.[11] In total, the 4,000 colleges and universities in the US spend $6 billion each year on electricity. The US Department of Energy estimates that at least 25 percent of those costs could be reduced through greater energy efficiency.[12] More than 530 schools throughout Canada and the US are now involved in the Campus Climate Challenge, which demands institutions use cleaner forms of energy.[13]

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