At several universities across the United States, students and administrators are changing the world one step at a time and people are noticing.
At the University of Central Florida, students are exercising their way to a better place.
“We’ve created a fully comprehensive recreation center that appeals to students’ different needs while incorporating elements that lead to a healthier planet,” said Recreation and Wellness Center Director James Wilkening.
The University recently expanded its Recreation and Wellness Center adding new cardio machines. The 65,000-square-foot expansion was completed with sustainability in mind. For example, the elliptical machines turn human motion into a usable form of renewable energy. The 20 new ReRev machines capture energy while in motion, and a central unit converts that energy into the form used to power houses and businesses.
A 30-minute workout on one of the environmentally friendly machines generates enough energy to fully charge six cell phones or power a laptop for one hour. The energy produced by the machines will feed into the building’s power supply, reducing energy costs.
“We are so excited to be able to offer UCF students this state-of-the-art facility,” said Wilkening.
The wellness center has other “green” features, including indoor lights that adjust based on the amount of light shining through the windows and occupancy sensors in restrooms and locker rooms.
The facility is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the widely accepted benchmark for buildings that are exceptionally environmentally friendly and healthy for occupants.
At George Mason University, leaders are also getting accolades after resurrecting an old mascot to ignite change in the way the community thinks about the environment.
Back in 2006, George Mason’s mascot known as “Gunther” was retired and a patriot mascot was introduced.
“There were mixed feeling on campus who had come to love Gunston,” said Traci Claar, Director of Community Relations.
At the same time the University was very interested in its sustainability programs.
For months, administrators collaborated with an organization called The National Energy Deduction Development Project. The team worked with George Mason University to develop a curriculum that would soon impact the community members surrounding the college. It also resurrected Gunston.
“The go green with Guston seemed to fit well since Gunston was a green character,” said Claar.
Today, Gunston visits 30-40 elementary schools talking to kids on the importance on the green environment.
The outreach program uses large flash cards, and songs using phrases like “bio mass” and “solar energy” and teaches kindergartner through third grade on topics like renewable energy. There are also fun games and lessons about energy conservation.
After several weeks, when the students have mastered the program, Gunston comes to visit with a presentation.
The University is hoping to spark and interest in careers involving the math and sciences which eventually lead to helping the environment.
“It will hopefully spark their interest in pursuing an education in environmental science down the road,” said Claar.
In higher education circles, the program has won several awards such as the 2010 Marketing Association’s “Environment Standard of Excellence” Award.
Over at the Fairfield University Jesuit Community Center in Connecticut, the school received an award for its environmental changes.
In December, the American Institute of Architects gave the University an award for the Jesuit residences for its environmentally friendly design.
For example, it added a garden roof of sedum plants and a Geo-thermal heating and cooling systems.
“It works well for the people who use it and is terribly energy efficient,” said David Downie, Director of Academic Environment Program.
The inside of the chapel, incorporated what designers call “damages European Beech.” The materials were rescued from the old site to make furniture for the new one. That invention won the school the 2010 Builders Choice award.
In addition, the colleges is putting up two new dorms and retrofitting another structure to create a third dorm. All have energy efficient design elements to them.
In November, Fairfield University also won the 2010 Energy Star combined Heat and Power Award by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The award followed the university’s purchased of a generator. Downie said the school installed a power plant using a gas turbine that burns natural gas very efficiently. The school now uses it to generate electricity. They also capture the heat generated by that process and use it for heating and cooling the university.
“We drastically cut our energy use,” said Downie.
While most universities ask freshman not to bring cars to campus. The university when further this year also asking sophomores to refrain from bringing cars.
“From an environmental standpoint it is huge, you have 25 percent less cars on campus,” said Downie.
To make workers on campuses accountable, Downie says the school replaced some of their fleet of campus cars with hybrids. They have also gone to smaller buses for fairing students across town.
“Universities are able to capture environment and energy savings and make them work economically because they have a long time horizon,” said Downie.
What green initiatives would you like to see at your school or office?