Because of its high use of renewable energy, Southern Oregon University has been named to the Top 20 list of Green Colleges and Universities by the Environmental Protection Agency.
In Oregon, only SOU and Oregon State University made the list. SOU came in at No. 18 with 17.6 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy, OSU at No. 4 with 66.6 million kwh. The universities purchased green tags through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to fund alternate energy generation.
SOU achieved the distinction of buying more green energy than it uses — 154 percent, with all of it going to wind generation. Only one other university on the list achieved that. OSU's purchase covered 74 percent of its energy use.
SOU President Mary Cullinan said in her blog (www.sou.edu/president/blog), "SOU continues to make headlines related to sustainability. "¦ This is wonderful news, a great testament to the work done by our students, faculty, and staff — and our hardworking Sustainability Council."
Cullinan cited such green advances as pilot "zeroscaping" projects by students (using native plants and little water), recycling projects at Susanne Homes Hall, handouts to students about shrinking one's personal environmental footprint, practicums and capstone projects on sustainability and coursework on sustainability through the Business and Environmental Studies Departments.
"It's incredible that the students bought these green tags," said Environmental Studies teacher Eric Dittmer. As a capstone project, students last year worked with Ashland Sanitary and Recycling Service to set up 65-gallon bins at each residence hall, he added.
As chairman of the SOU Sustainability Council, Dittmer oversaw such projects as recycling water, encouraging bus passes and other alternative transportation, installing more bike racks and getting printers that print both sides of a page, he said.
SOU students voted a few years ago to assess themselves fees to buy the green tags at $6.50 each, said Larry Blake, associate vice president for facilities.
"Each student pays a maximum of $15," Blake said. "It's a significant cost. It's kind of extraordinary. Very few universities do this."
The EPA's annual list is at www.epa.gov/greenpower/toplists/top20ed.htm. As part of its Green Power Partnership program, it also honors Fortune 500 companies and local and state governments.
Such green power purchases reduce the environmental impact of electricity use and can be purchased via Renewable Energy Certificates, on-site generation and utility green power products, according to the EPA Web site.
A page on the SOU Web site, http://sou.edu/sustainable/whatcanido.html, tells students and staff how to live more green.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.