Going Green Majors
COLLEGES REMAIN AHEAD IN SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS
Going green is going big, and universities have led the charge for sustainable living for years. Decades before celebrities like Jay Leno installed wind turbines on their homes, and way before Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” debuted, colleges were promoting ways to reduce our impact on the planet.
Attending a school that’s seriously committed to protecting the environment means there are signs of sustainability everywhere. You’ll spot “green” roofs on campuses from Ithaca College to Penn State to Princeton, where rooftop vegetation helps control building temperature or collect rainwater for flushing toilets. Colorado State University (CSU), Elon University and the University of California, San Diego all use electric vehicles for campus maintenance. At many schools, compost stations in dining halls cut down on trash shipped to landfills and solar panels provide green energy. (At CSU, all dining centers on campus are operated on renewable electricity.)
It’s not only about campus looks, though. Colleges are also finding better ways to teach sustainability in the classroom by giving students opportunities to practice what they learn in the real world.
Northland College in Ashland, Wis. adopted a mission to protect the environment and promote sustainability way back in 1971. The college offers 16 majors; 11 of them have some element of sustainability ingrained into the coursework.
“We have a very strong, hands-on, experiential philosophy. The campus should be a learning lab,” says Clare Hintz, campus sustainability coordinator for Northland. “Students are the strongest drivers of innovation on campus.”
Every other year at Northland, a class adds a photovoltaic array (solar panels) to a student-selected spot on campus. Schools like Northland that ingrain sustainability into everything they do give students plenty of opportunities to get their hands dirty. For example, the University of New Hampshire helps students learn sustainable farming on a 30-acre organic dairy farm. That’s a lot of manure!
If you’re interested in earning a degree focused on sustainability and the environment, there are plenty of majors to choose from:
SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Effective sustainability isn’t just about protecting the planet it also involves the economy and other social issues. This major teaches students how to promote change effectively in their communities and it’s a growing job field.
The classic green major environmental science combines physics chemistry and biology to help students understand the environment and how to solve big environmental problems.
Entrepreneurship teaches students the accounting finance and analytical skills they need to run a successful business.”We’re seeing growth in government agencies and private businesses who want to find out how to promote sustainability” says David Wahlberg vice president of marketing and communications for Northland.
MAJORS WITH A TWIST
You can add elements of sustainability to almost any major. Fashion design majors can use organic or natural materials. Architects might incorporate environmentally friendly aspects into designs. History or anthropology majors could add a focus on the study of the land-use practices of pre-industrial native populations (to see how people had to live “green” when there was no technology to do otherwise!).Sustainability isn’t just something a college does; it’s a way of life for the entire campus. If protecting the environment and natural resources is important to you choose a college and/or a major that’s committed to sustainability.