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Dateline: Increasing Environmental Awareness on US College Campuses - 2002-06-04

On American college campuses, environmentalism is taught, promoted, and its principles are expected to be followed. That's the theory.

But in practice, that isn't always the case. Right smack in the middle of those American college campuses are hundreds of rooms in dormitories where many college students live. These rooms, say environmental advocates, are far from environmentally friendly. The heating systems are controlled centrally and are turned up automatically; they stay on no matter what the temperature is outside. Roommates forget to turn out lights or leave computers and other electronic equipment running and humming at all hours of the day and night.

In fact, a poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, and commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation, tried to find out just how environmentally friendly college campuses actually were. In their State of the Campus Environment, they found that 64 percent of those who responded to the poll, said that environmental concerns are now integral to the culture and values on American college campuses.

Eighty percent of responding institutions upgraded lighting systems to save energy.

Almost all are attempting to increase energy efficiency in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water use. Nearly a quarter obtained some of their energy needs from renewable resources. And twelve percent of the schools use alternative fuels as a source of power for their vehicles.

Seventy-two percent of the schools reported installing environmentally-friendly toilets, showerheads and faucets.

But only eight percent in the survey said they required students to take an environmental studies course. While 68 percent of biology departments and 33 percent of political science programs have undergraduate environmental courses, only 12 percent of engineering and 11 percent of education programs currently offer such courses.

So what happens when new dorms are being built on college campuses? Will they be built environmentally friendly?

Lisa Phillips of the nationally-broadcast series, The Environment Show, produced by WAMC Radio in Albany and Northeast Public Radio, profiles the construction of environmentally-friendly dormitories at Bard College in New York State in this Dateline report.