It appears that congratulations are in order. The University was recently ranked fifth among several top universities in the use and encouragement of clean energy and technology, according to the founder of green energy investment firm Sustainable World Capital. This achievement is a bright energy-efficient light for a state that has been in the dark for a long time. But the University could do much more than it currently is to help reduce carbon emissions and excessive energy expenditures. The University should depend on its students for progress in the field of environmentally-friendly technology, and take advantage of its resources to practice what it preaches.
Sustainable World Capital Founder Shawn Lesser’s released his Top Ten United States Universities for cleantech on Monday. The ranking placed the University behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkley, the University of Texas in Austin and Stanford University. In his rankings, Lesser referenced University programs that encourage green businesses, like the business school’s Zell Miller Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the student-led MPowered.
The University’s encouragement of green energy is admirable — and vital. By now, it’s obvious that global warming isn’t a myth. Reducing carbon emissions and switching to greener fuels is necessary to keep the environment clean and healthy. And venture capitalists are looking to college campuses for investments in the technology that will reduce society’s carbon footprint. Universities hold some of the most promising ideas to improve green technology and increase energy efficiency. The wealth of knowledge and creation possible on campuses is unmatched. New concepts for green technology will come from students at top research institutions like the University — and this spring of innovation should be utilized.
But while the University’s support of green businesses is encouraging, it must act on a practical level to decrease its own waste and pollution. It hasn’t been completely remiss. The Ross School of Business, which opened in January of 2009, is LEED-certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program that sets guidelines to determine the efficiency of buildings. And University recycling numbers are impressive.
But the University has only two LEED-certified buildings, and the Ross School of Business has a lower certification level than comparable buildings at MIT and Stanford. The University should be more invested in attaining LEED certification. Meeting this program’s requirements shouldn’t be difficult, considering the University’s astronomical budget for construction. Additionally, the University has failed to switch to hybrid buses, which the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority already uses. The $1 billion University budget allotted to research for this cause puts the University in a prime position to expand its environmental initiatives. More can always be done, and the University hasn’t lived up to its potential.
Public universities are playing a vital role in promoting green energy initiatives. The University should incorporate student innovation to help improve its environmentally-friendly programs. And it should incorporate more green technology on campus. Because making campus greener, not simply achieving accolades, should top the University’s priorities.