AASHE Earth Day Special Report

Read the full post at AASHE.

In a video recently released by Second Nature, Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow recalls a conversation with a New York Times reporter who said: “Who cares whether or not the colleges and universities reduce their carbon footprint? You only got 2 or 3 percent of the carbon footprint in the country.”

“Well, yeah, that’s true,” Crow answered the reporter. “But we have 100 percent of the student footprint.”

The impact that students can have on the environment is one of the founding reasons behind Earth Day. That, and a faith in students to influence change. Inspired by the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” happening on college campuses all across the nation in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to the environment. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 was targeted to higher education campuses in an effort to raise awareness and appreciation for the natural environment.

Earth Day has since expanded to a global event coordinated by the Earth Day Network and Earth “Day” is often celebrated on campuses with weeks of panel discussions, volunteer opportunities, film screenings and other events that envision a sustainable future. New York University, for example, organized too many events to fit into one week and is now hosting a supersized Earth Week from April 11 – 26.

While higher education students, faculty and staff make significant strides in the campus sustainability movement year-round, Earth Day is a chance to step back and celebrate these achievements, to be inspired by sustainability leaders and success stories, and to recognize the work still ahead. Here is a snapshot of some of the campus sustainability efforts initiated in honor of Earth Day, Week, Month and Year.

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