Here are some examples of progress universities have made over the summer at reducing their environmental impact.  As a recent college graduate who is going back for a Masters, I like to provide an update every so often of noteworthy actions taken by the higher education system.

California State U Bakersfield to Install 1MW Solar Energy System
California State University, Bakersfield has begun the installation of a $9.5 million solar energy project funded by SunEdison. The 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic collection system is expected to provide 25 to 30 percent of total university energy and provide shade for 500 parking spaces. The solar power energy will be sold back to the university at a cost of five percent less than it currently pays. The project is slated for a late summer 2010 completion

U Louisville Plans to Phase Out Coal
The University of Louisville (KY) has announced plans to phase out coal burning on its Belknap Campus. The university is working with the Louisville Air Pollution Control District on a pollution reduction plan that will replace a coal furnace with a new natural gas boiler. The gas boiler will increase heating capacity by 64 percent. The university is scheduled to sign an agreement to phase out coal by the end of 2015.

U Utah Debuts Bio-Retention Garden
The University of Utah has announced the completion of a bio-retention garden. Dubbed the “Rain Garden,” the plot features drought-resistant, native plant species that pool rain water, storing it underground and re-channeling it to help alleviate the burden of the university’s current irrigation system. The garden was built with funding from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, which is collected from a portion of student fees.

U New Mexico Education Building Awarded LEED Platinum
The University of New Mexico’s College of Education building has achieved LEED Platinum status. More than 75 percent of construction waste for the 26,000-square-foot addition was diverted from landfills and 20 percent of the construction materials were regionally manufactured. The building features individual thermal and lighting control and a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic system.

U Portland Building Achieves LEED Platinum
The University of Portland’s (OR) Donald P. Shiley Hall has been awarded LEED Platinum certification. Green features of the engineering building include water-efficient landscaping and plumbing fixtures, occupancy sensors and operable windows. Ninety-two percent of the existing building structure was used and 92 percent of the construction waste was recycled. The building also features the use of irrigation groundwater to cool the floor, saving an estimated 8.5 percent of the total cooling energy for the building.

U Illinois at Chicago Installs Green and White Roofs
The University of Illinois at Chicago has installed green and white roofs. Funded by federal stimulus grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the green roofs’ vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide and the heat in the summer to provide extra insulation year-round. The university is also applying white acrylic coating on several campus roofs. The lighter paneling absorbs less heat and reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the building.

Central Michigan U Starts Campus Grow Project
Central Michigan University has launched the Campus Grow Project. With a focus on organic community gardening and composting, the project offers sustainable alternatives to the industrial food system through access to healthy local food and educational gardening opportunities. Students can grow and harvest food in two organic gardens on the university’s campus, where food scraps from the university’s residential restaurants are used to create nutrient-rich soil. Plots are also available to faculty and community members.

Ball State U Planning Campus-wide Geothermal System
Ball State University (IN) is working on the first phase of an $80 million project that will heat and cool the entire campus using geothermal energy. The geothermal project entails a ground source heating system that uses the earth’s below-surface temperature of 55 degrees to act as a heat source during the cooler months, and a heat sink during the warmer months. Geothermal pumps will push the water through an underground pipe system. By utilizing geothermal ground source technology throughout its 660-acre campus, the university expects to save $2 million annually on utility bills and eliminate 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

U Minnesota Morris Plans To Install More Wind Turbines
The University of Minnesota, Morris has unveiled plans to install two 1.65-megawatt wind turbines near its existing turbine of the same size. The $7.4 million-project is expected to cut the university’s carbon footprint by more than 80 percent. The new turbines combined with the existing renewable energy facilities on campus are expected to generate 5 megawatts of power, enough to power the entire campus.

U Chicago Recycling Event Collects 22,680 Pounds of E-Waste
The University of Chicago (IL) has announced that 22,680 pounds of recyclable materials were collected during the university’s first electronic waste recycling event. Among the unwanted items dropped off by community members and university staff, faculty and students were TVs, radios, cell phones, DVD players, vacuum cleaners and almost 700 pounds of plastic foam. By properly recycling electronic waste, materials were diverted from the landfill and the contaminants often found in these products were prevented from leaching into the water supply.