Schools, Colleges, Universities have an important role to play in the formation of an individual. The value system and ethos of the institution shapes an individual. Therefore, it is imperative for an educational system to address the challenges faced in everyday life. One of the toughest challenges we have to deal with today is Climate Change. Educational institutions play a critical role in the knowledge and skill development and can foster innovation. Therefore, Environment education cannot be restricted to textbooks, it has to be visible in the daily operations and functioning of any institution.
A Green Campus is a place where eco-friendly practices and education combine, it is a space where human beings and the environment work in harmony. Educational and other institutions consume tremendous amounts of energy, food, paper, etc and leave a significant carbon footprint on the environment. By adopting sustainable practices and green infrastructure educational institutions can play an important role in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable lifestyles.
Educational institutions have large roofs and terraces making them ideal for hosting solar panels. There are many benefits for a campus that runs on renewable energy. Though the one time cost of installing solar panels is quite high and many institutions may find it difficult to gather the funds, the savings from solar energy can lower the operational costs. After salary obligations, energy costs are the second biggest expenditure for educational institutions. The savings from the electricity bill can be used for other institutional expenses like increasing staff salaries and organising research projects. The installation also provides an opportunity for students to learn about clean energy. Studies show that students who are exposed to hands-on projects become more interested in engineering, science and technology.
Many educational institutions are bestowed with large campuses that can accommodate a variety of trees and biodiversity. They can positively contribute to climate change. Besides that, a campus with a green cover can substantially improve the Air Quality Index in that area. Urban areas experience higher pollution levels due to higher density population, industrial activity and emissions from vehicles. Trees absorb pollutants and give out oxygen in return. Having a dense green cover within the campus will also make it a home for numerous native wildlife species. The students will get a chance to explore the bird species that nest in the trees and also enjoy their chirping sounds.
Waste Management is another important aspect of a Green Campus. Institutions generate large amounts of waste from their daily functioning. Having a Zero waste policy and a waste management system in place can significantly lower the waste generated. A good waste management system focuses on the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Recycling prevents waste from reaching landfills and also helps in resource conservation. Organising regular recycling drives can help spread awareness and involve the entire community. Biodegradable waste like dried leaves and kitchen waste can be converted into organic fertilizers through composting which then can be used as a fertilizer for plants. Mismanagement of Waste pollutes the soil and water and release toxic chemicals into the air. Burning dried leaves and twigs that come from garden waste releases carbon dioxide stored in them thereby negating the purpose of planting trees.
Studies have shown that students studying in green campuses have better retention capacity, community sense, environmental behaviours and skills. As students and staff spend most of their day on the campus, the social, physical and mental well-being needs to be considered. Studies have shown that Greener spaces within the campus improve social interaction and mental well being. With exams and assignments to submit, academic life can be very stressful. Having a Green space within the campus can be a therapeutic means to release stress.
Exposure to a healthy and safe environment is a basic human right. Students learn well when they are taught young. Environment education simultaneously backed with action can instill environment-friendly habits in the young. Thus, by employing Green campus practices, institutions can raise awareness and set an example for change.