BSU named to Princeton Review’s list of “green colleges”

For the second consecutive year, Bemidji State University has been named one of America’s greenest colleges and universities by The Princeton Review.

The publication’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges, just released, evaluates colleges and universities on environmentally related policies, practices and academic offerings. In partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the Review has produced lists of America’s green colleges since 2011. The Guide to 322 Green Colleges is an alphabetized list of schools that meet the Review’s guidelines for being green and provides no ranking of any kind.

Environmental stewardship has long been a signature theme at Bemidji State University, which has employed a full-time sustainability officer since 2008. That same year, the University became a signatory of the University Presidents Climate Commitment, joining the effort to make college campuses carbon-neutral. Also, BSU students pay a voluntary “green fee” of $5 per semester, which helps fund environmental stewardship, awareness and education activities on campus.

“The students, faculty, and staff at Bemidji State are really starting to play a lead role in making our campus more sustainable,” said Sustainability Officer Ericka Bailey-Johnson. “So many of our initiatives now are coming from all across campus, and not just from the Sustainability Office. Just this semester, Student Senate has passed seven bills directly related to sustainability projects.”

In the 2012 guide, The Princeton Review noted Bemidji State for its green fee; its aquatic biology, environmental studies and education programs; its status as a Presidents Climate Commitment signatory; its active Students for the Environment club; and its requirement that all students take a People in the Environment course in order to earn a degree. The magazine also recognized the University’s efforts to encourage sustainable water usage through tap-water stations and use of reusable bottles to minimize use of bottled water.

Bemidji State participates in a variety of annual energy-savings challenges. A student-driven “Do It In the Dark” effort in the fall is an annual competition among residence halls to see which can attain the greatest energy reduction, and in the spring the University participates in the Minnesota Campus Energy Challenge, an energy-reduction competition among Minnesota colleges and universities. Bemidji State won the Campus Energy Challenge in 2009 and 2010.

In the past year, the Sustainability Office has also undertaken a solar-transpired air study to explore use of solar air heaters for buildings on campus; installed ReRev equipment on elliptical machines to convert their energy output into useable electricity; installed a ColdTub in the athletic training room to eliminate the need for ice in cold-water therapy for student athletes; founded a campus community garden; started a bike-leasing program for students called Bucky’s Bikes; and started a FreeStore on campus for students to donate unwanted items for other students to use rather than throwing them away.

The Princeton Review takes a quantitative and qualitative look at sustainability efforts it has identified as most important to students: whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable; how well a school is preparing students for employment in the green economy; and how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are. The Review invited 2,000 schools to take its survey in order to come up with the 322 profiled in the guide.

The Review compiles and analyzes data from 10 survey questions to judge colleges and universities included on the list:
• The percentage of food expenditures that goes toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food.
• Whether a school offers programs including free bus passes, universal-access transit passes, bike sharing or renting, car sharing, carpool parking, vanpooling or guaranteed rides home to encourage alternatives to single-passenger automobile use for students.
• Whether a school has a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus.
• Whether new buildings are required to be certified LEED Silver.
• The school’s overall waste-diversion rate.
• Whether the school has an environmental studies major, minor or concentration.
• Whether the school has an “environmental literacy” requirement.
• Whether the school has produced a publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventory and adopted a climate action plan consistent with 80 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 targets.
• What percentage of the school’s energy consumption, including heating, cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable sources (this definition included “green tags” but not nuclear or large-scale hydropower).
• Whether the school employs a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer.

For more information, contact Erika Bailey-Johnson, Bemidji State University sustainability coordinator, at (218) 755-2560.

Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges