(Indianapolis, IN)-- The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has announced the winners of its annual Campus Sustainability Leadership Awards. The awards recognize institutions that have demonstrated an outstanding overall commitment to sustainability in their education and research, campus operations, and administration and finance. The 2009 winners are: Butte College (CA), New York University, University of New Hampshire, and Furman University (SC).
"We had a very competitive pool of applicants this year, so this is a significant achievement for each of the campus and student winners,” said Paul Rowland, AASHE executive director.
Butte College has signed both the Talloires Declaration, a 10-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach, and the President’s Climate Commitment, a pledge to take action to mitigate global warming.
One of the objectives in the college's current strategic direction is to be climate neutral by 2015. The college demonstrates a continuous commitment to its sustainability objective by financing approximately $7 million for solar projects, resourcing a Sustainability Coordinator, and providing funds for the sustainability initiative.
The college is on track to generate all of its electrical power on-site by 2012. Currently the college produces more electricity from on-site solar than any other community college in the country.
In 2005, the college installed its first 5,700 solar panels on a four-acre field. In 2009, a second phase of on-site generation was completed by installing four additional solar arrays, bringing the total number of panels to over 10,000. These additional panels generate 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and have saved the college $300,000 annually in energy costs, reducing its utility bills by a third. Overall, the college produces 43 percent of its electricity needs with the capacity to produce up to 1.9 Megawatts through its on-site solar arrays, generating more than 2.7 million kilowatt-hours per year – or enough energy to power 500 homes.
“It is such an honor to be acknowledged by AASHE for the college’s sustainability efforts. This prestigious national award highlights the collaborative achievements of our students, faculty and staff,” said Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College president. “We are thrilled to be the only community college among AASHE’s 2009 honorees.”
Last week, Butte College received another prestigious honor as the only educational institution recognized for on-site generation by the EPA Green Power Leadership Awards.
Students are at the center of the college’s sustainability efforts. The Student Alliance for Sustainability provides leadership and coordination for the student sustainability effort. The Butte College Associated Students operate a Sustainability Resource Center in a high student traffic area. Throughout the year students plan, coordinate, and implement a wide variety of sustainability events.
The campus is also helping to train a future “green” workforce. Last year the college developed and implemented a 17-unit Sustainability Studies Certificate to enable students to partially meet their general education requirements by taking sustainability-related courses. This certificate includes a service learning requirement and weekend workshops. The college leveraged a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop and implement a Green Building Certificate program and intends to expand this program, using follow-on grants, into career pathways in alternative energy and green construction.
During its March 2009 accreditation site visit the college was commended for its “stewardship and leadership in environmental sustainability and integrating the important domain into student learning and campus planning,” and for “the creation and maintenance of a positive and nurturing campus climate” among others.
The organization and breadth of the college’s sustainability effort is seen as a model for California Community Colleges. For this reason members of the steering committee have presented at many conferences to include AASHE and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
The awards will be formally presented at the upcoming Greening of the Campus VIII Conference, Sept. 20-23 in Indianapolis, IN.