This Just Might Be the Greenest College in the World
Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, may be a small school at 1,400 students, but it's making huge leaps and bounds in sustainability. The school will soon be home to a living building and will be the only college generating all of its electricity from solar energy.
Hampshire Plans to be the First U.S. Residential College Supplying 100 Percent of Electricity from On-Site Solar https://t.co/43CTMU98O8— Hampshire College (@Hampshire College)1446042217.0
The Living Building Challenge is the most world's most rigorous environmental standard buildings. It requires net-zero energy waste and water systems, as well as sustainable, local construction materials. There are only eight school buildings worldwide that have been certified to date. Hampshire's 17,000-square-foot R.W. Kern Center—slated to open March 2016—will be the ninth.
“This building wears our culture on its sleeve,” Hampshire President Jonathan Lash told the Christian Science Monitor. “The Living Building Initiative challenges people to build buildings that leave no footprint, that push the boundaries of what is possible and that promote positive social and ethical standards."
The current estimate for the project is $11 million. "The building costs about 10 percent more than a traditional building of its size," principal contractor Jonathan Wright of Wright Builders Inc. told the Washington Times.
But those costs will be recouped by long-term energy savings. “A building of this size would typically use 7,000 gallons of water a day; we estimate the Kern Center will use 150,” Lash said. “And honestly, if we’re saving $500,000 dollars [annually], why not?”
It's not just about saving money in the long run, though. The socially conscious college felt an obligation to take the lead. “What if, in 10 years, 20 percent of the nation’s buildings met something like this standard?" Lash asked. "Think of the impact and the quality of people’s interactions with each other [because] physical spaces define how we interact.”
Inspiring Example: Hampshire College Fueled by Solar https://t.co/dAT4ijO6wg @JonathanLash @hampshirecolg https://t.co/vJKrfQylHZ— Solution Generation (@Solution Generation)1450880114.0
The project has been bold, to say the least. The college eliminated a roadway and parking lot in the middle of campus to site the building, converting the rest of the space back into meadows and pathways. The school also stopped mowing 15 acres of lawn at the students' requests, allowing the area to be restored to a meadow. “Students have been tracking the return of wildlife and we’ve been able to save about $30,000 a year,” Lash said.
Hampshire will also install 19 acres of solar panels next year and SolarCity is offering Tesla batteries with 10 kilowatts of storage to provide back up power during periods of low generation. Additionally, the school sources food from its campus farm and other local farms.
“I want our students to experience a culture that is always challenging itself to become sustainable,” Lash said. “A lot of students are enthusiastic, but everyone agrees that what we’re doing feels right and matches our values."
Hampshire College's initiatives are receiving praise far and wide. "These sustainability initiatives are impressive and inspirational," wrote Sharon Chen in a blog post on Solution Generation, "especially because students are the ones who are pushing for green changes; as Lash puts it, 'if anything is to change, it would happen with kids like these.'"
"Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders, and with our future resting on such passionate and determined college students, we are in good hands," said Chen. "From solving billion dollar problems to successfully lobbying corporations for green changes to reducing on-campus waste, students are demonstrating that they not only care about solving our climate challenge, but that they fully intend to do so."
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
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