Green College Towns, DC Is Gunning For You

We think of the District of Columbia as being all about government, but it’s something of a college town, too, with more than a dozen public and private institutions of higher learning. And leaders from a bunch of those institutions are on a mission to transform the District into the “greenest college town in America.”

Nine university presidents joined D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray at American University recently to sign the District of Columbia Mayor’s College and University Sustainability Pledge. The pledge is an agreement by the schools to go after a wide range of sustainability measures, from energy use in buildings to transportation, and waste reduction to purchasing decisions.

washington d.c., green colleges

image via Shutterstock

Each school will choose its own goals and aims for sustainablility under the pledge. But a few of the commitments include:

  • Achieve LEED certification on all new construction and major renovations
  • Purchase renewable energy
  • Employ District of Columbia residents in positions directly related to sustainability
  • Provide students with sustainability-related service learning opportunities in the District
  • Reduce stormwater runoff
  • Use tap water instead of bottled water
  • Support faculty who engage in sustainability related teaching and research
  • Implement LEED compliant cleaning program, policies and procedures

“Though our work together on the College and University Sustainability Pledge, the higher education community will be able to strengthen our collective commitment to creating and implementing environmentally sustainable practices across our campuses and throughout the District of Columbia, in support of Mayor Gray’s vision of making our city the greenest in America,” John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University said in a statement.

The nine universities to sign on their support for the initiative include: American University, Corcoran College of Art + Design, The Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, Trinity Washington University and the University of the District of Columbia.

Many of the universities have already put in place plans to minimize carbon emissions and move toward using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.  American University is already reducing energy consumption by using wind power for 100 percent of its purchased electricity. Over the summer, the school installed one of the largest solar electricity systems in Washington, D.C., and the largest urban solar hot water system on the east coast.

washington d.c. green colleges

image via Georgetown University

Georgetown University says it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the year 2020 and has already reduced its carbon footprint by more than 17 percent since the year 2005. Georgetown was one of the first schools to adopt campus-wide use of solar compacting recycling stations. In doing so, it diverts more than 90 percent of its waste from a landfill each year. Any new construction on the campus will now be designed with LEED Silver standards in mind.

Catholic University has reduced its carbon emissions by 50 percent through the purchase of renewable energy certificates in the past two years. The school has accomplished this through the use of 1,500 solar panels. Students at the school are in the midst of designing a solar-powered shelter for the University shuttle to encourage people to take the Metro to CUA and then ride the shuttle. And, a CUA-led team—the first-ever from Washington, D.C.—is competing in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.