Sustainable Campus Initiatives Attract a New Generation of Environmentally Conscious Students

College students today, many of whom belong to Gen Z — those born between 1995-2010 — are among the most environmentally conscious demographics. This is in large part due to greater awareness from media coverage and topical discussions that center on how to mitigate climate change and global warming.

Being so aware of the impacts climate change has on the earth, Gen Z carries the philosophical approach of living more environmentally consciously.

According to a study by the Princeton Review, 74% of prospective college applicants say a college or university’s commitment to helping to solve environmental issues would impact their enrollment decision. In response, colleges and universities have been shifting focus to bringing sustainable practices to their campuses, even hiring sustainability officers to help guide their goals and strategies.

With sustainability and decarbonization at the forefront of conversations, in 2010, a resource was created that ranks colleges and universities by sustainable practices. The UI Green Metric World University Rankings measures colleges and universities in six categories:

  1. Setting and infrastructure.
  2. Energy and climate change.
  3. Waste.
  4. Water.
  5. Transportation.
  6. Education and research.

Within these rankings, schools can be further segmented by country, region, campus setting (rural, suburban, urban, city center), campus size and population. Given the importance of continuing to attract incoming students, colleges and universities are finding ways to improve their rankings and “walk the walk” of sustainability as a priority.

Ways to be a leading sustainable institution

Colleges and universities can decrease their carbon footprint and achieve energy-efficiency metrics in a variety of ways. With the six categories of sustainability in mind, energy master plans may include optimization of infrastructure, new energy strategies, recycling and waste management and implementation of electric transportation. In addition, accreditation programs may be implemented for the next generation of sustainable facilities and energy management professionals.

Sustainability starts with a decarbonization roadmap, the first part of which begins with energy benchmarking. This process involves tracking the campus’ energy consumption and usage and comparing the data against historical performance and industry standards. The data collected supports identification of inefficiencies on campus and helps establish realistic goals for improvement.

In addition, the process assists in the development of methodologies and practices to minimize or even prevent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during installation, operation, maintenance, retrofit and decommissioning of buildings and mechanical systems. Furthermore, advanced metering provides live-data information into overall energy performance and offers insights that support reducing unplanned outages and premature equipment failures, and helps reduce overall energy consumption.

Universities and college institutions may also consider upgrading old, energy-intensive building equipment to smart, high-efficiency equipment. Installing energy-efficient boilers, chillers, heat pump technology, and LED lighting can lead to substantial energy savings.

Internet of Things (IoT)-based smart sensors provide facilities’ staff with actionable insights into daily operations. Building management systems (BMS) which integrate and streamline the IoT-based sensors can be programmed to achieve the highest efficiency standards for the mission of the space. Dashboarding with insights into performance can further help save time and costs associated with maintenance and operations, because data insights can be used to proactively maintain and respond to faults detected within the BMS.

In addition, sustainability initiatives may include incorporating renewable energy resources with battery energy storage into a campus’ power mix. This reduces reliance on fossil fuel-based electricity. Battery energy storage systems (BESS) store unused energy from the distributed energy resource like rooftop PV-solar panels, and discharge power during peak load times, reducing utility costs. BESS can also support electric vehicle charging on campus, providing backup generation during times of high activity and/or power disruptions.

At the center of all sustainability initiatives is transparent reporting. You cannot measure what you do not monitor. Therefore, building and energy management systems will play a pivotal role in aligning energy conservation measures to the progress made over time. Higher education institutions that participate in the UI GreenMetric World University Rankings and other ranking platforms like the Princeton Review require data to support sustainability claims and practices.


Stark Tech is a market leading technology provider, delivering turnkey solutions with master systems integrationequipment, and service, and building analytics that drive sustainability goals and keep facilities on their mission. Stark Tech also manufacturers large, skidded equipment that decarbonizes and reduces greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy sources and by converting waste into renewable natural gas.

This article was originally featured on the Buffalo Business First website. To view the original article, click here.