In every generation there is a social movement that captivates the minds of the youth and challenges the establishment. A generation ago the battle was for social justice, today the youth fight for the global environment. On college campuses throughout the United States, from the gates of Cornell to the waves of San Francisco, universities have begun to create sustainability committees in an attempt to “Go Green.” These committees were formulated by the growing demand of their students to take a proactive role in greenerizing their institutions. Petitions were drafted and student organizations were created in an attempt to challenge their universities levels of sustainability. Many of them have succeeded. Starting two years ago, presidents from universities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico signed an agreement to redesign their infrastructures and become sustainable centers of learning.

The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, (ACUPCC), provides a framework for participating institutions to neutralize their greenhouse gas emissions. While funding scientific research for sustainability, the universities will incorporate such developments into their curriculum, influencing the next generation of leaders in this country. Due to the strong demand by progressive minded students, presidents like Michael Hogan of the University of Connecticut, saw this as an opportunity for academia to lead the nation and serve as a model for modern America. As a part of the university’s commitment, Hogan instated a sustainability committee that is responsible to develop a sustainable divisional plan. Working with representatives from the administration, transportation, residential life, dinning services, community outreach, health services, and the student body, this committee brings together the entire university to solve a universal problem. This communal effort is being repeated throughout this country from the ivy universities to local community colleges.

As these committees make assessments of their universities, their discoveries and suggestions have begun to be implemented. 27 institutions have implanted some degree of green building requirements. The majority of them have adopted LEED certification standards. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, (LEED) certified buildings are scored on their sustainability, efficiency, materials used, and their environmental impact. The Los Angeles Community College District is implementing one of the largest public sustainable building efforts in the United States, allocating $2.2 billion for their LEEd certified projects. Serving 130,000 people, this program will serve as a model for cities all across the country. With 130 campuses already having sources of renewable energy, 70 more institutions including New York University and Santa Cruz are joining the list. In December of 2007, College of the Atlantic became the first US university to be carbon neutral. The signatory is on track with its 10 year commitment to renewable energy. These redesigned institutions will serve as an example of how we as individuals can have an influence in our communities.

The environmental consciousnesses of students on college campuses across the United States lead to the ACUPCC. With in two years there has been a dramatic investment by institutions. Committees have been formed, assessments made, funding allocated, and construction begun. With only 150 signatories, there is still much progress to be made. The grassroot youth is needed to begin about such changes. For more information on the ACUPCC or for information on how you school can sign the Commitment please visit their sites. After all, the torch has been pasted to a new generation of Americans.