Georgia Southern University
All Georgia Southern (GS) students take a non-majors Environmental Science class as a Core Requirement. Many participate in a 3-hour service-learning requirement, providing >10,000 hours of service to the environment since 2015. GS offers an undergraduate Interdisciplinary Concentration in Environmental Sustainability for any major, including a capstone practicum that integrates their learning in a culminating real-world sustainability project. Faculty and staff network with local industry, municipalities, non-profits and government agencies to identify sustainability practicum opportunities. Forty courses in 19 departments have a sustainability focus and 82 faculty members are involved in sustainability research across 12 departments. A Sustainability Study Abroad Program offers courses in four countries: Ecuador, Botswana, Malawi, and Italy. First-year-experience courses include the Sustainability Seminar Series as a campus event for which students can receive course credit for attending.
A thriving student-fee-funded Center for Sustainability (CfS) offers many programs, speakers, and events for the campus and community. Sustainability is included prominently in student orientation and in residence halls with a recycling incentive program. CfS interns host workshops, lead programs, offer campus sustainability tours and give presentations to their peers that reach > 10,000 people annually. A competitive grant program funds sustainability improvements on campus and in the community, and has provided >$1 million in grants to students, faculty and staff since 2014. Funded projects include alternative energy solutions (solar utility carts, wind turbines capturing wind from chillers, solar tracking technology), nanotechnology for carbon capture from emissions, bioswale installations, and biodiversity surveys to name a few.
Georgia Southern’s Sustainability Committee, assembled to develop our Climate Action Plan, includes administrators, faculty, staff and students. Our energy conservation measures have reduced energy use by ~15% per square foot over the last 5 years. One of the state’s top participants in the Georgia Power’s Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebate Program, we have offset approximately 8 million KWH of energy. We have set-up an energy management system that can control energy usage from our main Facilities office. We are ranked #1 nationally for the number of passengers on our buses per mile (1200+) and have over 15,000 passengers per day. This reduces the number of single passenger vehicles on campus and our overall carbon footprint.
In order to educate and engage the community, CfS hosts an annual sustainability festival on the county courthouse lawn, featuring >40 green vendors/exhibitors and attracting >1500 participants. The event enlists assistance of 100+ student volunteers who assist with sustainability activities and workshops throughout the festival. In 2014, the GS Museum and CfS developed a traveling sustainability exhibit that we bring to elementary and middle schools and festivals in the region to engage the public in climate solutions. CfS also partners with several campus and county departments to host a 10-week Afterschool Garden program at the five elementary schools in Statesboro, Georgia each semester. GS students teach the children about sustainable food from seed to table. The GS campus observes a No Impact Week with a week-long “carbon cleanse” promoting sustainable behaviors and activities.
A student-led program tracks solar energy and provides valued data on solar radiation in Statesboro, Georgia. These data can be used throughout the community to influence solar initiatives. Georgia Southern is the only university in Georgia to irrigate with reuse water and is known statewide for its water conservation measures. We collaborate with the City of Statesboro to bring treated wastewater to campus to reuse as irrigation. This conserves as much as 200,000 gallons in a single hot day in the summer, derived from reuse water rather than the aquifer. The system allows for flexible adaptation during periods of drought. We have installed a student-fee funded, free community electric vehicle charging station that connects the electric vehicle charge locations between Atlanta and Savannah, GA. Additionally we partnered with Johnson Control in our residence halls to beta test a direct digital control that connects the HVAC and lighting systems, and enables them to communicate on a single platform, and thereby reducing unnecessary energy usage.
Students engaged in service learning are heavily involved in creating sustainability opportunity in the community. As many as 1300 students a year participate in a 3-hour environmental service learning project where they assist the local community in invasive species removal, organic farming, farmers market work, stormwater education, litter clean ups and more. The community has come to depend on these students to assist with environmental initiatives and the partnership has resulted in environmental capacity-building for the city and county.