TU ranks among greenest campuses in U.S.

By Kyle Hobstetter on November 28, 2018

Because of its sustainability efforts, Towson University was included on Princeton Review’s "Guide to 399 Green Colleges”

TU recognized as green campus

Energy conservation. Waste reduction. Education. Civic engagement.

With these sustainability-building steps — and others — Towson University has been recognized for its efforts with a place on the Princeton Review’s “Guide to 399 Green Colleges.”

Environmental health and well-being are a priority at TU, which was one of six Maryland institutions on the list, which also included the likes of Drexel, George Mason, Harvard, James Madison, Northwestern, Princeton, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Among Maryland schools: Frostburg, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, Salisbury, St. Mary’s and Towson University.

TU is no stranger to the guidebook, which focuses solely on institutions of higher education that have demonstrated an above-average commitment to sustainability via campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.

Patricia Watson, TU’s assistant director of sustainability, is pleased with the recognition. She also feels the campus could have been honored for all of its accomplishments.

“There is so much more we could get credit for,” Watson said with a laugh, “but we can’t stop now. We have to ramp up what we’re already doing.”  

During the past academic year, TU launched several sustainability initiatives. Some of the biggest changes took place in the campus dining halls.  

Trays have been eliminated in West Village Commons and the Glen Dining halls in an effort to conserve water and reduce food waste. In addition, TU eliminated straws from dining facilities amid a global movement to reduce plastic waste.

There has also been a renewed focus on campus plant life. One of the biggest components of the initiative took place during the last Big Event, TU’s largest day of service, when students helped plant ecological gardens near the College of Liberal Arts Building.

There have also been efforts to help TU FoodShare become a permanent fixture at TU. According to Watson, food donations have increased over the past couple years from 25 pounds per week, to over 400 pounds per week.

Although faculty and staff suggest ideas, Watson said most sustainability initiatives originate with students.

“We have really great students who have passion projects that we don’t even know about,” she added. “And the students take it upon themselves to see their projects through.”  

TU offers many programs that enable students to get involved with sustainability initiatives around campus.

Eco-Reps is a team of peer-educators that promotes sustainability initiatives across campus through education presentations and outreach efforts.

The Office of Sustainability and the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility also host events such as the Retreat for Environmental Action, as well as an annual environmental conference.

These events promote environmental awareness and conservation efforts, and give students ideas on how to develop plans to keep TU a “green” campus. 

According to Watson, the work students do with the Office of Sustainability and the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility is invaluable. 

“It’s probably the fuel that keeps me going,” Watson said. “Students can see clearly that there’s a complex problem—and they work to solve that problem. It’s very rewarding to see projects come to fruition.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.