WINNER: Seattle University
Seattle University’s recent efforts to improve sustainability and reduce waste are myriad and miraculous. The 7,700-student academic institution on Capitol Hill has a list of green achievements as long as a dean’s robe—and it’s getting longer every year.
All four of the university’s most recently completed new buildings are LEED Gold certified. The school switched from purchased steam energy to on-site natural gas boilers and slashed annual CO₂ emissions by two million pounds, saving $138,000 a year. LED lamps have replaced compact fluorescents in the Student Center and a swimming pool
heat-recovery system will save an additional 575,000 pounds of CO₂ emissions annually.
In its quest to become more efficient and environmentally friendly, Seattle University has looked at every little detail, including its paper towel dispensers. The old ones ran on batteries (requiring 3,600 battery changes a year); the new ones are manually operated. The environmental studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences transformed unused land at the King County South Wastewater Treatment Plant in Renton into a sustainable farm that donates produce to local food banks. Earlier this year, the university created the Center for Environmental Justice & Sustainability, an effort to encourage more scholarship on the issue of planetary stewardship.
SILVER: University of Washington
A groundbreaking smart grid project allows dorm residents at the UW’s main campus in Seattle to monitor and reduce their building’s energy use while competing against other dorms. In 2012, the university saved
$6 million on energy-efficiency improvements alone. Thanks to a computer-controlled irrigation system, low-flow fixtures and rainwater cisterns, the university has reduced water use by 40 percent since 2000. All told, the UW boasts nearly two million square feet of LEED-certified campus structures and nearly seven acres of green roofs. The efficiency even spills onto the gridiron: The renovated Husky Stadium and neighboring football operations building are expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.