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Posted Jan. 24, 2022

How can universities help combat climate change?

Climate changePlanet Earth is dying and one of the main reasons for this is climate change.

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Climate change impacts every part of the Globe, from the Tropics to the Poles, from the Highlands to the seas. People and the environment all around the globe are already experiencing the impacts of climate change – water supplies are dwindling, weather extremes are becoming more common and intense, forests are burning and reefs are dying. However, we can still avoid the worst effects of climate change and create a more secure future for everyone. Universities and colleges all over the world can have a hand in combating climate change, let’s take a look at how this can happen.

1. Refitting buildings to be energy efficient

Buildings' environmental influence has been more apparent in recent years. Many universities value green structures and sustainability as an element of their obligation to more of the bottom line. Green or sustainable methods in dorms buildings result in models of maintenance and operation that are resource-efficient and healthier. A building does not have to be brand new to be sustainable. The number of operational facilities much outnumbers the number of additional development projects. As a result, retrofits for existing structures can have a more significant environmental impact than focusing simply on construction and green design standards.

2. Educating students to undertake individual actions that make a difference

Postgraduate students can make a significant contribution to combating climate change, for example, by joining eco-friendly universities in their countries and making their student homes more environmentally friendly. Students can also pursue degrees that could benefit the planet such as sustainable building design and performance and sustainable building design and engineering. Students can also inform their non-environmentally aware friends about the dangers of climate change and the simple behaviours they can adopt in their regular lifestyle to help make a difference (like eating less meat, cycling/walking to lectures rather than getting the bus, etc). While it is hard to draft policies or persuade adults in positions of power to switch their beliefs, educating the present and future generations will benefit society and help to with plans to combat one of the most significant crisis people will face in the coming years.

3. Switching off electrical devices

Many individuals leave their computers, televisions, hairdryers, phones and other electronic devices plugged in the whole day. Keeping such things plugged in comes at a cost. In Europe, power generation is the largest greenhouse gas emitting sector. As a result of this ratio, electricity is among the most significant causes of climate change. You can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by simply disconnecting your electronics when you are finished with them.

4. Changing students' eating habits and food available on campus

According to a study conducted, many students do not value their eating habits, and eating healthy food is not a primary concern for them. Meals and foods are also taken during break times, which are social activities for most students who often use this time to chat to each other and chill out. These two factors indicate that students will most likely not be focused or motivated enough to make thoughtful decisions about their eating habits at school. As a result, likely, the majority of students' food choices are primarily based on spontaneous decision-making. Environmental cues like the availability of unhealthy food products, packaging sizes, portions, and enticing odours or presentations of unhealthy food would certainly influence students' eating behaviour. University cafeterias and canteens have a lot of potential for helping students change their eating habits. Given that most students make impulsive eating decisions, environmental cues can help them make healthier decisions. It is predicted that healthy choices will increase when canteen offerings are mostly more enticing, for example, attractive presentation, placing it on display, etc.

5. Holding sustainability months

Postgraduate students may create a change by advocating for sustainability practices and making their campus more environmentally friendly. On-campus, university students have a say, for example, they can choose to attend a sustainable university or to encourage sustainable activities. The Sustainability Monitoring, Rating and Assessment System, for instance, assigns a sustainability rating to universities and suggests university sustainability programs. When college campuses join the environmental movement, they do not minimise energy waste and save money on utilities. Still, they also invest by empowering learners to become activists and leaders who care about the environment. Every solar system or compost pile added on campus is good news for the green movement. However, colleges can do a lot more to improve their campuses to be more eco-friendly. Students can come together and form an energy-saving initiative. Through the initiative, they can compel the university administration to implement energy saving, plant trees within the campus, source funding for students doing projects on energy saving, consider ways to encourage energy efficiency, and other climate change combatting activities.

Universities setting a good example

With all eyes on climate change – especially since the high-profile media coverage of COP26top universities around the world are striving to make a change and ensure the future good health of our planet. Here are some examples of US universities that are setting a good example in the fight against climate change and global warming.

Cornell University created a CAP (Climate Action Plan) to encourage a passion for learning, research, and communication while reducing net carbon emissions to net-zero by 2035. Cornell has lowered gross emissions by more than 30% since 2008, nearly halving them compared to 1990 levels.

In 2020 Stanford University in California received the Alliance to Save Energy Visionary Award for launching its energy-saving innovation initiative, SESI (Stanford Energy System Innovation). SESI is dedicated to converting the university’s power generation from a 100% fossil-fuel-based combined cycle power plant to grid-sourced energy and a more effective electric heat recovery, lowering emissions by 68%.

Several goals outlined in the University of Maryland’s original CAP (Climate Action Plan) have already been met. Creating a Sustainable Studies Minor (currently the school’s largest minor); acquiring 76% of its bought electricity from renewable origins in 2015; and lowering solid waste outputs by 99% since 2005, are just a few examples.

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