Elon University Named a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

The national award recognizes Elon’s commitment to sustainability in its operations and its academic programs.

Elon University is one of only 11 colleges and universities in the nation to be recognized as a 2016 Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. The announcement was made in Washington D.C., on April 22, by Secretary of Education John King and Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss.

Elon was nominated for the award by Dr. Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) and a member of the Governor’s Education Cabinet. Elon is the first postsecondary institution in North Carolina to receive the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School designation.

“Elon University has demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability in both its operations and education,” Williams said. “The results have been a substantial reduction of environmental impacts, improved health and wellness and effective environmental and sustainability education.”

Elon President Leo M. Lambert said the recognition by the Department of Education is the result of the university’s long-term commitment to sustainability. “From the Board of Trustees to faculty, staff, students and alumni, Elon understands the importance of environmental responsibility and education,” Lambert said. We believe in being good stewards of the earth and will continue to make progress on these issues guided by our Sustainability Master Plan, the Elon Commitment strategic plan and the leadership of Elon’s Director of Sustainability Elaine Durr.

Selection for this recognition is based on achievement in three pillars: 1) reduced environmental impact and costs; 2) improved health and wellness; and 3) effective environmental and sustainability education. Elon’s nomination packet included details in all of these areas. Below are a just few of the highlights of Elon’s sustainability efforts:

  • Through energy efficiency and conservation efforts, Elon’s energy consumption per square foot has decreased 30 percent in 13 years.
  • Elon currently has 26 LEED certified buildings on campus totaling 624,240 square feet, which is 23 percent of the university’s total square footage.
  • Elon’s RN Ellington Center for Health and Wellness houses offices that provide well-being services and educational programming as well as counseling and/or referral services for students, faculty and staff.
  • Campus health and wellness is further supported through campus recreation facilities and programs to promote fitness and/or overall health.
  • The Sustainability Faculty Scholars Program provides faculty with resources and support to incorporate and enhance a focus on sustainable principles and practices in their courses. More than 45 faculty members have participated in the program from various disciplines ranging from art to biology to business administration.
  • The Elon Environmental Center at Loy Farm demonstrates the integration of food and natural systems with the built environment. Its activities and functions include food and farming systems, a design build studio for responsible architecture, the Piedmont Prairie ecological restoration project and long-term ecological research.
  • Among many other major campus investments in sustainability have been the establishment of the Elon Forest land preserve, installation of geothermal technology for heating and cooling of the Colonnades residential neighborhood, and the installation of a solar energy generating facility at Loy Farm.

In total across the country, 47 schools, 15 districts, and 11 postsecondary institutions were honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. The schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions were confirmed from a pool of candidates nominated by 27 state education agencies.