American colleges and universities can lead the country to a renewable energy future

Pleasant Garner, Environment New Jersey intern, hosted an event at Princeton University to highlight renewable energy’s potential on campus.

Two weeks ago, Environment America, together with the U.S. Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), launched a campaign to work with colleges and universities in the United States to adopt 100 percent renewable energy goals. Setting these goals will make campuses healthier, cleaner, and severely reduce their impact on the climate.

Achieving 100 percent renewable energy is as feasible as it is necessary. Several corporations like General Motors, Wal-Mart and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy. And many local governments from San Diego, California to St. Petersburg, Florida have done the same.

Environment California State Director Dan Jacobson and students at UC Davis.

By transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, we can have healthier communities today and a more livable future for our children growing up. And colleges and universities are well-suited to lead the way, as respected institutions that are influential in their communities.

Hundreds of higher education institutions are already making a difference on renewable energy as signatories of Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Commitment. Tim Carter, who works with many of these institutions as the Executive Director of Second Nature, had this to say about our campaign:

“Since 2006, the Climate Leadership Network has been driving higher education campuses to meet aggressive renewable energy goals with over 500,000,000 [kilowatt hours] being produced from renewable sources at signatory institutions every year. said In the decade since the Network started, procuring renewable energy is simply a smart business decision in many areas of the country. Environment America’s 100 percent renewable energy campaign will bring awareness to the longstanding commitments these campuses have made and accelerate progress across the sector.”

Environment America Clean Energy Associate Bronte Payne speaks at an event at Cornell University. The school plans to go 100% renewable by 2045!

By implementing renewable energy projects, campuses can show their students that climate action is possible and inspire the next generation of climate leaders. As the generation most affected by climate change, students have an interest in fighting dirty energy. In fact, college-aged Americans are more likely than older Americans to see global warming as a “very serious problem,” to believe it will affect them personally, and to support actions to limit global warming pollution.

Finally, the energy and enthusiasm of public-minded students at colleges and universities has played a role in most important social transformations. Working on college campuses to move the concept of 100 percent renewable energy into the mainstream creates an opportunity to teach young people the skills of civic engagement necessary to build a sustainable society.

“The idea of shifting to 100 percent renewable energy inspires young people who have the greatest stake in stopping investments in fossil fuels and tackling the climate crisis,” said California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) Student Board Chair Nicole Walter, who is working to build support for 100 percent renewable energy within the University of California system. “Engaging students on college campuses across the country helps train activists and leaders we’ll need to make the clean energy transition.”

Bronte Payne stands in front of Cornell’s Snyder Road Solar Farm.

To date, many colleges and universities have made significant commitments to renewable energy. Among the colleges and universities that have made commitments are Swarthmore, Haverford, Knox, Georgetown, and Carnegie Mellon. With a strong base of support from the campus community coupled with a treasure trove of experts with the technical know-how, other colleges and universities can follow their lead.

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