Two-thirds of American colleges and universities have gone or are going "green" by taking energy-saving and environmentally conscious steps, according to a recent survey.

In a poll released Aug. 25 of attendees at the annual conference of the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), 65 percent of respondents said their schools have bought new equipment, launched online education programs, implemented policies, or are otherwise moving to reduce energy usage and help the environment.

Of those schools that haven’t yet gone green, three-fourths have at least looked into how to be more environmentally sensitive but are being held back by budget limitations or other obstacles.

The single most widespread pro-environment step taken–by 80 percent of the "green" schools–was recycling computer and networking equipment, rather than sending it to a landfill. Also, 73 percent said they have bought more efficient equipment with an eye toward saving energy, while 63 percent said they’ve implemented a policy to reduce the amount of printing on their campuses.

Simply "powering off" whatever equipment they can whenever possible is a practice at 55 percent of green schools, while 29 percent have revamped their data centers and 20 percent have simplified their networks, both with energy savings in mind.

Among the more innovative approaches, 27 percent of the schools said alternative sources are providing some of the electrical power on campus, while 25 percent said at least some faculty or staff practice telecommuting. Also, to reduce the need for student travel, 22 percent said they have implemented or expanded their distance-education programs, while 18 percent have implemented or expanded online educational opportunities.

Because ACUTA member schools are in a network in which "they can share their green ideas with their peers," the green movement is able to keep growing, said Jeri Semer, ACUTA’s executive director.

Although the survey suggests that energy and cost savings aren’t easy to document, most respondents said their efforts have provided or eventually will provide a return on their investment. Also, 35 percent of green schools said their efforts have definitely paid off by enhancing their "green" image.

Of the schools surveyed that haven’t yet gone green, 72 percent blame budget limitations for holding them back, although 32 percent said the difficulties in finding energy-efficient equipment and in proving future cost savings are additional obstacles. Among the non-green schools, the biggest motivators to going green are cost and energy savings and a sense of environmental stewardship.

ACUTA represents nearly 2,000 individuals at some 780 institutions of all sizes. Its core purpose is to support higher-education information communications technology professionals in contributing to the achievement of the strategic mission of their institutions.



Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Eco-Friendly Computing resource center. With energy costs soaring to record levels, taking steps to reduce the amount of energy you use isn’t just good for the environment–it’s also essential for your schools’ fiscal health. Fortunately, manufacturers of technology are responding to these needs by developing more eco-friendly products that can reduce power consumption and save schools money over the life of these systems. Go to: Eco-Friendly Computing