Sierra Club names Elon one of “America’s Coolest Schools”

For the third consecutive year, the Sierra Club has ranked Elon University one of the nation’s top 100 “greenest universities.” The ranking, published in Sierra’s September/October 2011 magazine recognizes schools in 10 categories that include academics, waste management, energy efficiency, food, purchasing, transportation, financial and other factors.

Elon, which is ranked #57 in a survey distributed to 940 colleges and universities nationwide, received its highest marks in the areas of academics, purchasing, waste management, administration and other initiatives.

Elon has a sustainability master plan and a full-time sustainability coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. The overarching goal of the sustainability master plan is carbon neutrality (the elimination of net carbon or greenhouse gas emissions) by 2037. The university also has a sustainability policy, which complements the master plan and a comprehensive sustainability web site (

Elon has a green building policy specifying the use of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program with a target of Silver certification. Elon’s first LEED building, Lindner Hall, achieved LEED Gold certification. The most recently completed building on campus, Alumni Field House, was recently awarded LEED Gold certification from the USGBC.

A new geothermal system is now operating, providing heating and cooling for residence halls in the Colonnades neighborhood. Federal grant funding was awarded for a solar thermal project, which is providing hot water needs for the residence halls and the Colonnades Dining Hall.

An energy conservation policy was recently approved solidifying Elon’s best practices for energy efficiency and conservation. This policy includes the purchase of Energy Star products and/or EPEAT rated electronics as applicable. Since FY 2005, Elon has increased its square footage over 30 percent, yet overall the campus’ energy density has decreased by about 20 percent.

A yearly greenhouse gas emissions inventory is conducted to track progress toward the climate neutrality goal. Since FY 2008, emissions have decreased 4.6 percent.

The Office of Sustainability sponsors residential energy reduction competitions each year, which have resulted in energy savings and increased awareness among students. Elon also participates in RecycleMania – a national recycling competition held in the spring. During the competition, Elon also holds a competition among the residential areas on campus to see which can recycle the most per capita.

Elon has a real-time electricity monitoring system for about 50 campus buildings including residential, academic, dining and administrative. This system allows campus community members to monitor electricity usage in buildings throughout campus, to compare buildings and to view unit equivalents, e.g., pounds of coal and dollars. This system is available online for anyone to see at and is displayed on touch screens on campus.

Elon composts pre- and post-consumer food waste in two dining halls (the largest ones) and has a retail or front of the house composting operation in one location. More than 100 tons of organic waste have been composted since the project began in fall 2008. Yard waste is also composted on campus. The dining halls have been trayless since fall 2007. To reduce consumption of bottled water, bottled water is no longer a meal plan option and filtered water stations are available. In addition, some hydration stations have been installed with water fountains in high-use areas. The response has been positive and additional stations are anticipated for next school year.

Elon uses reclaimed stormwater from ponds on campus for its automatic irrigation system.

Elon’s print management system has reduced paper usage in computer labs and the library by 70 percent from 10 million sheets in FY2005 to about 3 million in FY2010. Duplexing is also the default on these printers. Virgin paper is no longer used for copy machines, printers and general office use and has been replaced with 50 percent post-consumer recycled content paper. Several university departments have moved to electronic document storage to minimize the need for paper.

The University has a comprehensive recycling program including all kinds of paper, cardboard, plastic, cans, glass, batteries and printer cartridges. Additional materials from the Elon’s waste stream are also recycled in a responsible manner, such as electronic waste.

At the end of each academic year, a move-out recycling program called “Don’t Trash It!” is organized to collect gently used items for local non-profit organizations. There is a printer cartridge recycling program providing faculty, staff and students with access to bins to recycle their printer cartridges.

Low-flow plumbing fixtures are standard on campus and have replaced the majority of older, high-flow fixtures. Water consumption per square foot has decreased by about 20 percent since FY 2005.

The Sustainability Faculty Scholars program identifies, supports and recognizes faculty who are interested in incorporating or enhancing a focus on sustainable principles and practices in their courses. Each participant identifies a course that he or she would like to modify to include a sustainability component, is provided with relevant sustainability resources and pedagogies, modifies the selected course accordingly and then teaches the course the next semester it is offered. Several participants have modified more than one course, and the program has had over 25 participants from a wide range of disciplines.

The Sustainability Research Grants were created through the Class of 2010’s gift to the University. The competitive grants are awarded to students performing research related to sustainability.

There are a number of opportunities for students to get involved in sustainability on campus including the Elon Community Garden, Sierra Student Coalition, Elon Outdoors, Elon Volunteers Green Team, Habitat for Humanity, Students for Peace and Justice, Students in Free Enterprise, Student Sustainability Council, Campus Kitchen and the Eco-Reps Program. Campus Kitchen at Elon University was launched in February of 2011 and utilizes un-served food from campus dining facilities and engages students as volunteers who prepare and deliver meals to the community.

The Eco-Reps program is a student peer education program dedicated to promoting environmentally responsible behaviors. Eco-Reps educate their peers about environmental issues such as population growth and waste generation through sustainable living lessons as requested by faculty and staff for appropriate classes and related programs and activities in coordination with Residence Life staff. There is also a residential student learning community for those interested in sustainability.

In an effort to encourage campus community members to reduce their environmental impact, the university has a sustainability pledge which asks those who sign it to make at least three positive changes in their daily lives. The pledge content was created by the Student Sustainability Council in coordination with the sustainability coordinator and is divided into categories: energy, waste, transportation, food and water, purchasing and getting involved.