Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you focused on green power? Why not energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency is absolutely essential to achieve carbon neutrality and the Green Campus Initiative is a huge supporter of campus energy efficiency and green building initiatives. However, reducing carbon emissions through green buildings and energy efficiency is a slow process and time is not on our side in addressing the worse effects of climate change. Colleges can make dramatic cuts to their carbon emissions by purchasing green energy now at surprisingly affordable prices. Then, over time, colleges can make smart investments in green buildings, electric vehicle fleets, and off-grid electricity production. All these efforts are essential to a greener future but green power purchases pay immediate dividends for the future of the planet.
Climate change is a massive problem. Would cutting 80% of college power emissions really make a difference?
It's a good start. Colleges use quite a bit of power. They also are where the generation that is going to feel the worst impacts of climate change currently study, work, eat and sleep. They are a great environment for helping people to understand both the threat of climate change and what can be done about it. A college student that is at a green campus is more likely to continue to practice environmentally friendly living when they graduate. Many people are surprised to find out just how affordable green energy is.
To give you one example of the potential impact, the City University of New York uses 1% of New York City's electricity and CUNY is purchasing 14% of its power from green sources. If CUNY, a public, nonprofit education system can do it, so can the other 99% of New York. So can the rest of the country.
What's your organizations relationship with the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment?
We don't have an affiliation with the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPC) but we applaud the initiative. To date, ACUPC has gained 667 signatories. That's a great start! While many college and university presidents have made the commitment to carbon neutrality, we want to make sure that they keep their commitment. While ACUPC is a top-down effort, the Green Campus Initiative is grass roots, getting students organized to make their colleges carbon neutral. If we can get both college and university leadership and students committed to carbon neutrality, the likelihood that these pledges lead to reductions in carbon emissions is much greater.
What's with the Reagan quote? He's not exactly remembered as an environmentalist.
Ronald Reagan was a clear-eyed pragmatist. He's remembered today for his strong stance against the Soviet Union in the Cold War and for his push to lower taxes from historically high positions. In both cases, Reagan identified the challenges that America faced and unified the American people behind confronting them. Only Reagan's generation could defeat communism. Only our generation can act in time to stop global warming from threatening the national security and economic security of the United States and the well-being of the planet.
We do not view climate change as a partisan issue. The science is settled. How we respond is an open question. Our goal is to address climate change by encouraging colleges and universities to commit to carbon neutrality. We are not advocating regulation but instead helping to create market conditions that place value in our planet's future. We think Ronald Reagan would approve of that approach.
It's also worth noting that our map of college's that purchase green power doesn't exactly look like most political maps from the last Presidential election. Northeast colleges and universities, typically viewed as being liberal and tree-hugging,haven't exactly embraced green power (with the exception of a handful in NH). Omaha, possibly one of the most conservative states in the country, comes in third in our ranking. Take a look at the map and what you'll notice is too much white space but no clear political boundaries for what states are green and what aren't. By our measure, Texas is greener than California.
How did you calculate the scores for each college and each state for the green power initiative?
Because there is no comprehensive carbon inventory for all colleges and universities, we had to find a way to make apples to apples comparison across colleges of different sizes and across states. We solved this problem by calculating the percentage of each college's student body that is covered by green power. A school with 2,000 students, for instance, that purchases half of its electricity from green power sources, is counted as having 1,000 green students. We then compare the number of green students across all colleges within the state to the number of total students. The scores are based on two federal datasets. The Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics maintains data on college enrollment through its College Navigator. The Environmental Protection Agency tracks purchases of green power through its Green Power Partners program.
My college isn't on your list but we purchase green power. Can you include us on your list?
We use EPA's Green Power Partners program for our data on colleges and universities that have made green power purchases. If your school is not in EPA's dataset but should be, becoming a partner is easy! See the EPA's Steps to Becoming a Partner for more information.
The data you have on my college is wrong. How can I get it fixed?
Please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll fix it if it is our error or forward it on to the dataset owners if it is in one of the datasets we use that is externally owned.
Why are you beginning your campaign in Maine?
Many colleges in Maine already have begun to make the transition to carbon neutrality and we want to turn that momentum into a revolution. The College of the Atlantic was the first college in the United States to become carbon neutral. Colby is the largest school to date to have achieved carbon neutrality. Bowdoin has committed to being carbon neutral by 2020 (their blueprint is an excellent model for other colleges to follow). Bates is not far behind. Other New England colleges are not far behind. New England also has a functioning market for carbon trading with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, making investments in carbon neutrality much more affordable.