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According to the College Sustainability Report Card released earlier this month, Brown is about as eco-friendly as universities get. Consider some of the initiatives that contributed to our A-minus grade this year. We've committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 42 percent below 2007 levels by 2020. We purchase food from over 20 local farmers, and we send food scraps to a local pig farmer. We've decided that all new construction projects will meet LEED Silver standards. We give employees monetary incentives to carpool. And we allow large donors to ask that their gifts be invested in sustainable companies.

On the University level, Brown is looking pretty green. When it comes to our student body, however, things aren't quite as bright. We know plenty of students who buy bottled water in bulk at Little Jo's, who print hundreds of pages at a time in the Sciences Library and who leave the lights on when they walk out of their dorm rooms. Sustainability may be a buzzword for the University, but it's far from the reality of most students' daily lives.

rown can't turn all its students into canvas-bag-toting environmentalists. But it can put policies in place that would encourage students to make environmentally sound choices. These policies can be simple and cheap. And they can benefit both students and the University.

Here's an idea, for starters: Brown could launch an energy reduction campaign and channel part of the savings from energy conservation to the Spring Weekend concert fund. The University would compare each dorm's energy usage to the average usage over the previous five years. If students reduced their consumption — by being vigilant about turning off lights, by unplugging appliances and by using compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example — the University would give 25 percent of the money from energy savings to the Brown Concert Agency.

Similar programs have been successful in the past. Connecticut College started an initiative called Concert from Conservation in 2006, and last year the campaign led to a 12 percent reduction in dorm energy use. That saved the college almost $10,000 and gave students $2,400 to spend on a concert. 

It's a win-win situation. Students get better bands on Spring Weekend. The University saves money on energy bills. And suddenly the whole campus is involved in decreasing Brown's environmental footprint. Sustainability becomes a part of everyday life, not just a word in the University's construction policies and emissions reduction pledges. And the University graduates a class of students who are a little more conscious about their energy use and the environmental effects of their actions.

We applaud Brown for constructing efficient buildings and purchasing local food. Ultimately, those large-scale, institutional policies are the ones that make the biggest difference when it comes to the environment. But those policies create a sustainable campus, not a sustainable university. If we want to make the jump, we need to engage every member of the Brown community in making environmentally responsible choices. 

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to


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