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Five College Campuses Leading the Charge on Renewables

American universities have become hubs for climate action, witnessing breakthroughs in everything from smart design to groundbreaking research to student activism.


For centuries, universities have been catalysts for good ideas. 

Universities are leading on climate action from all angles. From electric bus fleets to creative solar canopies to outspoken climate activists, colleges around the US are demonstrating creative leadership on climate action.

These five visionary colleges aren’t just educating this generation of leaders; they are looking to create a better world for future generations. And they have some bright ideas on how to get there.

Howard University

Howard University is showing real climate leadership just miles from Capitol Hill and the White House.

Howard is conducting research on an important topic for renewables: integrating clean energy into the modern grid system. Fossil fuel advocates like to claim that renewables and the grid are completely incompatible, but the truth is that scientists and engineers like those at Howard are rapidly improving systems to store and deliver renewable power.

Howard is committed to the critical global solutions. But it is also taking steps at its own front door.

The university recently completed a retrofit project for outdoor LED lighting. The result? A projected $10.5 million in lifetime cost savings, 70,000 tons of reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and improved safety and beauty on campus.

It goes to show just how impactful small backyard changes become over time.

Arizona State University

Arizona State takes full advantage of abundant desert sunshine to produce energy, create community, and support its neighbors.

Along with using carbon offsets, ASU has installed 88 solar systems to help meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. These are not simply panels on the outskirts of campus – ASU gets innovative with its projects.

One unique project in Memorial Union has a triple benefit effect. It provides a 25-foot high shade canopy for students from the scorching heat, beautifies a campus common place through artistic design, and generates nearly 400 kilowatts of electricity through PV solar.

ASU is also committed to being a good neighbor. The university is developing economically and culturally smart renewable solutions with the nearby Navajo tribe as the reservation phases out coal usage.

24 Hours of Reality 2017: Be the Voice of Reality

With fossil fuels driving a climate crisis around the world, it’s time to speak up as one planet. On December 4-5, join former Vice President Al Gore, Climate Reality, and an all-star cast of artists, thought leaders, business visionaries, politicians, musicians, and more for the global broadcast event 24 Hours of Reality: Be the Voice of Reality, celebrating the climate activism happening all around the planet and calling on each of us to make a difference.

Posted by Climate Reality on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

University of California - Irvine

UC Irvine shows that 100 percent renewable is 100 percent doable. Recently, it became the first school in the US to convert to an all-electric bus fleet.

Yes, UC Irvine gets a lot of power from onsite PV solar panels. But it has complemented this focus on production with a focus on where the majority of energy is actually consumed: buildings.

UC Irvine has been a pioneer for LEED buildings on campus, constructing new facilities to be highly efficient while retrofitting old buildings to conserve energy. It was the first institution in the nation to meet goals outlined by President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge in 2011, and it did so seven years ahead of schedule.

Since then, the California school has been a leader in clean tech innovations. In yet another national first, UC Irvine found a way to use a power-to-gas (P2G) system to utilize excess wind and solar electricity that would otherwise go to waste.

Colorado State University

CSU is the country’s premier university for all things sustainable – and it’s got the numbers to prove it.

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Ratings System (STARS) ranked CSU as the greenest campus in America.

Which makes sense. Its location is ideal, nested against the Rocky Mountain foothills on sunny, windy plains. And the commitment to sustainability is found everywhere across campus.

It was first college to receive the coveted STARS platinum rating, and it was also the first to use solar energy to power an air conditioning and heat system.

CSU is especially dedicated to sustainability in the classroom. More than 90 percent of CSU departments conduct sustainability-related research. NASA developed CloudStat technology to help CSU students conduct climate change research. It has pioneered a Master of Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting program that is the first of its kind in the country. The list of academic commitments goes on…

Plymouth State University

The renewable revolution on college campuses isn’t just being driven by crafty architects and scientists.  Increasingly, student activists and college administrations are leading colleges of all sizes and locations to choose clean energy.

The power of student voices in this process cannot be underestimated. One case in point is Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where a small group of committed young activists worked closely with university officials and the student body to demand change. The result? PSU has committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

It joins the company of Salt Lake City and other towns in Climate Reality’s 100% Committed campaign.

The students at PSU recognize the significance of prioritizing clean electricity on college campuses.

“Creating an environment where sustainability is second nature will help bring change on a global scale,” said Kate Burgess, leading activist and student organizer at Plymouth State University.

What can you do?

1. You can join these universities in the movement for clean energy. Make the transition to renewable energy at home or sign on to defend America’s Clean Power Plan.
2. Learn more about Climate Reality’s 100% Committed campaign and Campus Corps program.
3. Download our free resource guide, Be the Voice of Reality: 12 Ways to Make a Difference, and learn how to educate and inspire your friends, family, and community to take bold action on climate change.