At Bentley University we take a highly integrative approach to preparing our students for work in a resource-constrained world – one that consists of classroom teaching, the support of a dynamic career services office, and hands-on learning using our campus as a “living lab.” Our Office of Sustainability works to connect faculty and students with an open and engaged Facilities Management Department allowing students to participate in Bentley’s operational sustainability efforts, including our aggressive steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Through their work on our campus sustainability initiatives, students are able to apply what they learn in the classroom to “real world” challenges. With the support of the career services team, which is reaching out to sustainable business and clean energy companies, students are increasingly landing internships and jobs in this sector.
At Bentley we work to practice and teach the “triple-bottom line” – people, planet, profit. We’re deploying an approach to sustainability that integrates environmental science literacy with a study of complex, multi-disciplinary problems across the curriculum including climate change, energy, and resource scarcity.
Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, for example, we recently designed a case study titled, “Will Corn Ethanol Fuel U.S. Energy Needs?” The case study was developed for use in a number of different disciplines, including natural sciences, accountancy, economics, finance, political science, and geography. The same team of professors is currently working to design a similar common exercise using natural gas hydraulic fracturing data. The goal in both instances is to give students a capacity for complex problem solving by recognizing the very complicated, multi- disciplinary, and interconnected nature of regional and global sustainability challenges.
Bentley tries to walk the talk every day when it comes to sustainability. By setting aggressive goals to reduce its carbon footprint 50 percent by 2015, 70 percent by 2020, and to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2030, Bentley is committed to finding creative ways to reduce energy use and power the campus via cleaner fuels.
Bentley approached its 50% goal through a combination of energy efficiency projects, the purchase of wind power, and student initiatives that engage the campus in energy conservation efforts. Energy efficiency projects include the expansion and continued operation of a sophisticated energy management system, installation of infrared occupancy sensors for heating and cooling in both residential and non-residential buildings, and installation of LED lighting on all of the campus’ walkways, roadways, and parking lots.
Using the savings generated by energy efficiency projects, Bentley invested in Green-e certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) worth 25,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity – Bentley’s average annual electricity usage. We are happy to report that through this combination of cost-cutting measures and our wind energy purchase we were able to hit our 50% reduction goal two years ahead of schedule. In addition to helping Bentley achieve carbon footprint reductions, the REC purchase supports domestic renewable energy generation, energy security, and further development of the renewable energy market and products in the US. Upcoming sustainability projects include a campus-wide solar feasibility study and a formal building retro-commissioning project, both of which will contribute to further carbon footprint reductions.
At Bentley our integrative approach to teaching, hands-on learning and innovative facilities management allows us to engage our students in sustainability and helps to build it into their lives and future careers. We see Bentley graduates as the change- makers of the next generation.