Continuing a legacy of sustainability

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    Seven days of activities during Earth Week included sharing of educational information on Sanford Mall about how to better care for the environment and reduce waste. The week also included activities encouraging students to unplug, volunteer in the community, recycle and participate in art projects related to sustainability issues.

Appalachian once again has been saluted as one of the nation's most environmentally responsible universities.

The Princeton Review recently recognized the university's dedication to sustainable efforts with inclusion in "The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges" for 2013. The guide was created in collaboration with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

This is the fourth year the guidebook has been released, and Appalachian has been included each time. The book honors schools that demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.

Recent survey findings by The Princeton Review indicate that many college applicants are interested in attending "green" colleges. "Among 9,955 college applicants who participated in our 2013 'College Hopes & Worries Survey,' 62 percent said having information about a school's commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school," said Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher of The Princeton Review.

Crystal Simmons from Appalachian's Office of Sustainability said, "Being featured in this review really shows that our university is committed to sustainability and is taking tremendous strides to educate our students on what it means to lead a 'sustainable' life."

Schools were selected for the guide based on responses to more than 50 questions regarding sustainability-related policies, practices and programs. Scores were assigned each school on a scale ranging from 60 (lowest) to 99 (highest). Appalachian received a score of 98.

The Office of Sustainability said the university's high ranking can be attributed to the following:

  • Student sustainability-centered research opportunities
  • Appalachian's long-standing appropriate technology and sustainable development programs
  • The university's willingness to "protect the environment through conscientious stewardship and assertive leadership in sustainable policies and practices"
  • 70 percent of departments offering courses that are sustainability-related or focused
  • Sixteen renewable energy installations, including the state's largest operable wind turbine
  • Appalachian's entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, The Solar Homestead, and winning the People's Choice Award

In addition, the university offers sustainable transportation options encouraging students to leave their personal vehicle at home. These include the mass transit system AppalCART, and car share and ride sharing services.

Sustainability is a core value at Appalachian. In 2007, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution requiring that all new buildings and major renovations meet at a minimum LEED® Silver standards.

The Reich College of Education, which opened in August 2011, was awarded LEED® Silver certification this spring by the U.S. Green Building Council. Its sustainable features include energy efficient lighting, a green vegetative roof and use of reflective roofing to reduce high solar reflectivity and lower cooling costs, water-conservation plumbing features, water efficient landscaping, solar hot water panels, and an energy-efficient heating and air conditioning system. In addition, many of the building materials used for the project had recycled content and were manufactured or harvested regionally, such as floor covering and wood panels.

More recent construction, including Plemmons Student Union addition, has been built to Gold certification standards.

Recently, Provost Lori S. Gonzalez stated that the university's new strategic plan will be based on the concept of sustainability. "This is a true value at Appalachian and the University Planning and Priorities Council believes it should be elevated through the strategic plan," she said in an email to campus.

A statement on sustainability being considered for the strategic plan addresses the university's active stewardship of the state's "interconnected financial, cultural and natural resources. Through engaged scholarship, we balance critical, creative and global thinking in a living laboratory, transforming theory into practice and fostering responsible citizenship," the proposed statement reads.