sustainable utensils in a paper cup

10 Ways to Promote Sustainability on College Campuses

Sustainability is becoming more and more widespread among college campuses. Potential students are even evaluating their choices based on how many — or few — sustainable choices their potential colleges are implementing. Making sustainable efforts are often thought to be much more complicated than they truly are. Most options involve a simple switch between two products, like switching from a plastic water bottle to a reusable one. Others can be more in-depth, like starting and maintaining a campus garden. This article offers information on sustainability, its benefits, why it’s important on a college campus and how to implement and promote it.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is the ability to meet our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It applies to natural, social and economic resources. Contrary to how many people define it, sustainability is not just about environmentalism. It also concerns social equity and economic development. Ultimately, it is a community vision that calls attention to how personal actions and community practices affect the natural world.

The concept of sustainability is still relatively new, but the movement itself has roots in social justice, conservationism, internationalism and others. By the end of the twentieth century, many of the ideas that now make up sustainability had come together in the call for “sustainable development.”

There are three pillars to sustainability:

  • Environment
  • Economy
  • Society

Increasingly, college and university campuses are embracing these pillars and sustainability as a whole since it also improves the quality of campus life. It’s a forward-looking approach to:

  • Energy
  • Economics
  • Community well-being
  • Technological innovation

A campus that implements sustainability in both academic programs and master planning tends to be:

  • Vibrant
  • Caring
  • Innovative
  • Creative
  • Resilient

The Importance of Sustainability on College Campuses

People and communities often choose sustainability in their personal lives for varying reasons — so many reasons that it would be impossible to list them all. But often it comes back to the simple motivation of maintaining the future of the next generation. People and groups both now and in the future must continue to create solutions and adapt to be truly sustainable.

When it comes to sustainability specifically on a college campus, it’s important to introduce students to sustainable actions because they’re already being exposed to other ideas and opportunities through what is known as a “co-curriculum” — the learning that takes place outside the classroom. This entails everything from learning about living in a community to the people you meet to the clubs you join to sustainable efforts. These all creates the center of what living in a campus environment means.

A campus with a variety of sustainability initiatives often has:

  • Healthier food
  • Community service opportunities
  • A creative approach to lifestyle behaviors

Students now are looking at colleges and measuring their sustainability to decide where to go because those campuses with more sustainable efforts will prepare them for the experiences that will most matter in their future. Beyond that, sustainability is also extending into the standard curriculum. A campus that emphasizes it will reflect those values in both its curriculum and culture.

10 Ways to Promote Sustainability on College Campuses

So, sustainability on a college campus is important, but how exactly can a college promote it to its students? Here are different ways that you can improve your college campus and make it more sustainable:

1. Buy Local

Your campus can buy local foods to cut down on the distance required to transport the food. This method saves money while not adding carbon emissions to our atmosphere from the trucks that would’ve had to deliver the food. It also helps support the community around your college, which often couldn’t thrive without the business from the surrounding area. Student dorms can also be furnished with items from local shops or by buying second-hand items.

2. Participate in Campus Sustainability Month

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education holds Campus Sustainability Month every year starting on October 1st. It includes varying green ideas and projects for a college to limit their environmental impact. It also focuses on engaging students in topics of sustainability like renewable energy. Many campuses already utilize this program to inspire their students to get involved with sustainable efforts on campus. Each college can participate how it wants to to ensure the best results for their community. Educational events and service projects often are included.

3. Install Recycling Bins

The easiest and most common way that people participate in sustainability is by recycling. Installing bins across campus makes recycling as easy as possible. Students sometimes won’t go out of their way to find a recycling bin, but if there is one nearby, they’re more likely to recycle. A way to ensure there is always easy access to recycling is by putting a bin anywhere there’s also a trash can.

If your campus doesn’t already have recycling in place and you want to install a plan, you can:

  • Contact local recyclers and determine what types of materials you can drop off to them.
  • Work with the school’s facilities department to find spare bins.
  • Label bins clearly with accepted recyclable materials.
  • Place bins in highly trafficked parts of campus.
  • Develop a team of volunteers to collect recyclables every week, weighing each bag to track effectiveness.

Recycling programs on a college campus often have a big impact and are quite successful.

4. Start a Bike Rental Program

A bike rental program will encourage students to rent a bike to use instead of their cars during the semester. Biking can have as little as one-seventh the impact as driving a car on the environment. Bike sharing encourages those who wouldn’t normally ride a bike to use green transportation, funds other campus sustainability initiatives with the bike rental fees, reduces vehicle emissions around campus and promotes exercise and healthy living. Riding a bike is one of the most sustainable forms of local transportation since it only uses the energy produced by peddling.

5. Start a Campus Garden

A campus garden can grow organic produce, which saves money and lowers carbon emissions, but it can also directly involve the students, teaching the importance of sustainability and healthy living. You can also support the community by donating produce to local food pantries to help those in need.

6. Start a Composting Program

Food waste piles up fast, especially when you have a lot of people eating in the same place repeatedly, like a college cafeteria. Composting minimizes the amount of food that your school sends to the landfill. It can be as simple as composting food scraps from prep and waste left on plates or as extensive as using plant-based compostable tableware. To involve the students even more, it can become a competition between the years to see who has the least amount of waste. This would teach students to also be more aware of how much they put on their plate.

7. Stop Using Disposable Items

Plastic forks, knives, spoons, cups, water bottles and anything else that only has one use before being thrown away is the biggest source of waste. These kinds of items will often sit in landfills for hundreds of years before breaking down. Using reusable plates, cutlery and cups creates a much more sustainable lifestyle while also saving money. Some universities go as far as banning the sale of bottled water on their campus to encourage everyone to contribute to a more sustainable community.

8. Go Digital

Using fewer notebooks, textbooks, folders and paper handouts by going digital will create much less waste. Utilize the technology on your campus to reduce your paper usage. Encourage both professors and students to only print what’s really necessary. You can even limit printing allowances to ensure that people are making a conscious effort to watch their paper waste.

9. Offer a Donation Program and an E-Waste Recycling Drive During Moving Season

College students often collect a lot of clutter over the semester that they typically don’t take home with them. Instead of throwing out the items they don’t want, offer a donation area on your campus around this time of year to collect them. Then, the following year, you can offer the collected items to students, giving more life to them and keeping them from landfills. You can also donate the items to those in need. Along with unwanted items, college students tend to have a lot of broken and outdated electronics. An e-waste collection event is another way to promote campus sustainability.

10. Install Water Stations Around Campus

A reusable water bottle keeps needless plastic out of landfills. Offering plenty of easily accessible refill stations promotes students to make the switch to a reusable bottle. American Dining Creations offers a water purification system that is sustainable and hassle-free. It guarantees that you’ll always have an unlimited supply of purified fresh water available. They can even personalize the system for your specific water conditions for great-tasting water. You can save anywhere from 30-70% by going bottle-free with their system. Refill stations help reduce your carbon footprint by more than 70%.

The Benefits of Sustainability

Sustainability efforts help to protect the environment and leave a more promising future for the next generations. But it also has other benefits. For one, it’s an easy way to save money. The less you waste, the more you save. More than ever, the younger demographic of students are interested in services that are not only good for them and their health but also for the environment. Sustainability has a direct impact on the overall state of the Earth’s — and therefore humanity’s — ability to survive and thrive over time. One of these impacts are on climate change.

What is Climate Change?

Climate is not the same as weather. It is a broader focus on average weather patterns in a given place over a defined period of time. It also isn’t a change that happens during a day or even a month. It can only be noticed when comparing current conditions to the history of climate in the area. There are some natural reasons for the climate to change, but scientists have shown that humans greatly impact and strain the climate. Many of these factors are controllable, like the burning of fossil fuels.

Climate change causes:

  • Decreased food supply
  • Increased costs
  • Drought
  • Forest fires
  • Diseases
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Loss of coral reefs

By adopting a handful of everyday changes, one person can make a lifetime of differences. The more people that implement green choices, the less the climate will change, and the healthier the planet will be.

As these issues of climate change arise, implementing green solutions into buildings, especially on college campuses, increases the lifespan of buildings and outdoor spaces. Sustainable efforts by the university will influence how students learn while decreasing the college’s negative impact on the environment. In addition, students that see their college making an effort in sustainable choices are more likely to implement them into their own lives.

Colleges and universities are opting for a more sustainable design for their campuses since it is a better choice from a long-term operational perspective. Schools want their structures to last, to become a legacy. To ensure this, building design leans toward sustainable practices like durable materials that will last time and use.

Choosing American Dining Services

Implementing sustainable changes onto your college campus can sometimes be hard to do alone. You might not know where to start or how to exactly make the change. American Dining Creations can help with that. They are a third-generation, family-owned company that has a vision for hospitality and service. Reimagining the typical industry approach, they shifted from identifying as “retailers” to being service-oriented. Even as their company grew to one of the 20 largest food service companies in the United States, their original values remain — a commitment to integrity, great service and customer relationships.

Their leadership team is focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in both their workplace and community. It’s a mission of theirs to continue the advancement while ensuring that everyone is equipped to perform to their highest potential. American Dining Creations aims to utilize the varying strengths that come from the diversity of their employees when working on new projects and challenges.

Their diversity and inclusion program focuses on three critical areas:

  1. Workforce
  2. Workplace
  3. Marketplace

They don’t just want to employ diverse backgrounds, they also want to offer diversity to their customers by partnering with diverse suppliers and community organizations to deliver culturally relevant products and services.

Contact American Dining Creations Today

As you move to implement sustainable efforts on your campus, contact American Dining Creations for a sustainability-friendly dining program. They have a team of culinary experts and industry-leading hospitality professionals that can develop a plan that reflects your campus cultures and values while catering to your unique needs.

Fill out the form on their website to get started and make your campus better for your students and the environment.