The U.S. Department of Education has released a list of schools, districts and universities it named as 2019 Green Ribbon Schools for sustainability.
Georgia College was the only postsecondary school in the state—and one of only four nationally—to receive this prestigious award. Plaques, made of sustainable materials, will be presented during a ceremony in Washington D.C. in September.
“This honor represents the hard-work and dedication that so many over the years have contributed to making Georgia College better and an example to others,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Lori Strawder.
“The efforts toward making the campus more sustainable is not a one-person show. It takes everyone,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to be part of the sustainability efforts on campus and to work with so many people on different levels that are trying to accomplish the same goals.”
The selection was based upon Georgia College’s high achievement in three pillar areas: reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), civic skills and green career pathways.
Georgia College's many notable sustainability initiatives include education outreach and opportunities to students for internships. The Office of Sustainability has provided more than 30 internships to students, who worked 10,000 hours of service. This gives students chances for experiential learning and leadership development, while impacting the community in positive ways.
Undergraduate and graduate students helped earn this award by addressing waste reduction, assuring responsible use of resources, educating the campus community, focusing on behavior change and providing research data.
Last year, students instituted the Campus Kitchen of Georgia College to minimize dining hall waste and provide food to the disadvantaged. Physics students installed solar panels on selected golf carts. And efforts are also routinely made to help the environment by members of the Sustainability Council, Sustainable Fee Program, Garden Club and Environmental Science Club.
Forty-two projects on campus resulted in more than $200,000 in rebate awards through the Georgia Power Energy Efficiency Incentive Rebate Program—saving 3 million kilowatts per hour (kWh). These include LED conversions, reflective roof installations, heating and air optimization and occupancy sensor connections. LED conversions alone contributed to a savings of more than 2 million kWh in the last seven years. The plan is to equip the entire campus with LEDs by 2020.
The university is involved in recycling and composting, as well. Students are shuttled to off-campus locations, like the Green Farmer’s Market. Wellness efforts include bike stations, puppies on Front Campus to relieve exam-time stress and a state-of-the-art Wellness Center for exercise. The university is also a leader in community-based initiatives, like ArtHealthy and Live Healthy Baldwin to reduce childhood obesity.
In her congratulatory letter to campus, Andrea Suarez Falken, directory of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbons Schools, wrote: “This award acknowledges your college or university’s leadership in taking a comprehensive approach to sustainability ... You are representative of promising practices to improve achievement and equity, not only for aspiring green campuses but for all postsecondary institutions.”