By and large, millennials are a generation that cares about the environment. According to a 2014 Nielsen study, 73% of global millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. Furthermore, in an unaffiliated 2017 study, about 78% of millennials said they were willing to change their lifestyle to protect the environment. As both millennials and post-millennials grow their amount of expendable income over the next couple of decades, it is essential for businesses to pay attention to these consumer trends and preferences.
So, what does this mean for the world of higher education? There are certainly major investments that schools can make to promote a greener presence, such as installing solar panels, implementing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and offering environmental degree programs. But there are smaller, easily manageable green practices that schools can enact in an effort to reduce their environmental impact – and attract conscientious students while they’re at it.
Providing alternative transportation options is a great way to help students at your university to reduce use of their personal vehicles. A good place to start is making sure that walking paths are both accessible and safe by keeping the surfaces well maintained, having security officers patrolling, and ensuring that walkways are well-lit. Bikes are another popular alternative transportation option among students, so be sure to provide adequate bike rack space in front of buildings so that students can secure their bikes while in class or in their dorms. Also becoming more popular are bike rental stations, where students can pay an hourly rate to check out a communal bike. Finally, larger campuses often find that having a free bus system that runs on and around campus is tremendously beneficial to students, especially in areas where the city does not offer adequate public transportation.
According to the National Park Service, Americans alone use about 500 million straws every single day. While there is an abundance of other disposable plastic products used regularly, removing plastic straws from daily use is a small, manageable change that most people find easy to make. There are a growing number of plastic straw alternatives available for use in your dining facilities, including paper and bamboo. Just be sure to keep plastic straws available for students and faculty with disabilities for whom these other options might not work as well.
Local produce is a far more sustainable food option than fruits and vegetables that come from afar and are brought in by trucks contributing to greenhouse gases. Promoting farm and garden programs on campus is a great way to reduce your school’s carbon footprint and can be a helpful addition to your school’s horticulture or culinary degree programs. Offering a farm or garden on campus is also a wonderful draw for students who enjoy spending time in nature.
While many campuses have standard recycling options, there are a lot of great ways to elevate your school’s recycling program. Break out your recycling options from one “recycling” container to separate “glass” and “aluminum” containers. You can even add an option for paper recycling (according to a 2004 Rutgers study, an average university with a campus population of ten thousand students uses more than a million sheets of paper each month). Many school dining halls have even implemented composting bins for food waste. There are an endless number of recycling options for institutions are large as universities.
For socially responsible students, clubs like green student organizations can be a tremendous draw. Not only does it show them that their school cares, it also gives them an avenue through which to make a difference. These organizations are a huge benefit to the university as well, as they can help to implement some of the programs mentioned above.
“Going green” is hugely beneficial to both universities and the students that they enroll. As climate issues continue to mount, it is important that schools pay attention to student concerns about their environmental impact. In doing so, they will not only attract socially conscious students, but will do their part to preserve our world as well.