The average 50,000-square-foot college building consumes more than $100,000 worth of electricity every year. These numbers add up fast, so it's no surprise that energy is often the single largest source of campus emissions.
If only these institutions switched to solar, they could easily save money — not to mention the planet. What if you were to influence them to go solar? Convincing them may be tricky, but it is possible with the following tips.
1. Talk Numbers
Many colleges and universities don't want to go solar because they think it'll cost too much money. However, switching from electricity to solar power can actually save them millions in the long run. As electricity prices continue to rise and solar installations become more efficient and affordable, they'll have no choice but to opt for green energy.
Once they make the switch and begin offsetting their monthly utility bills, they can use those savings to reinvest in students' education. For instance, the superintendent of Scottsdale Unified School District experienced a $20 million budget decrease in just two years after choosing solar. He was then able to dedicate 90% of the budget to staff, 6% to power and 4% to supplies.
2. Discuss Other Benefits
Fewer expenses and higher profits can certainly influence universities to go solar. Money talks, right? However, there are a plethora of other benefits that can further convince students and staff to support sustainable energy. Three in four students say that a university's environmental commitment affects their choice of schools. Thus, investing in solar is an excellent way to increase enrollment and attract more students who want to gain firsthand experience with green technologies.
As sustainable schools earn a good rep among students, they'll also attract top-tier professors, researchers and advisers from all over the world. This faculty helps students grow in leaps and bounds, so they're just the type of teachers universities want. Therefore, discussing these and other related benefits may pique their interest and convince them to adopt more sustainable initiatives.
3. Think Outside the Box
Most universities' roofs are perfect for solar panels because they're often strong, flat and sturdy. However, some schools might prefer something a little less obvious. Luckily, innovative solutions like glass roofs can power schools without distracting from their structural splendor. Placing solar canopies in parking lots is another brilliant, albeit more architecturally prominent, idea that can provide shade and power to college campuses.
The sun isn't the only power-generator out there. Wind, water, friction and heat can all create energy under the proper circumstances. If your university bigwigs aren't yet ready for giant panels or solar canopies, try influencing them to install a few wind turbines instead. Maybe the engineering or environmental science department can even build one as a project.
4. Plan and Petition
Busy university staff won't give you the time of day if you don't have a solid plan. Create long- and short-term strategies that outline how, why and when the school might go solar. How will the board find funding for such a big investment? What will you do to support or even lead ongoing efforts? The more specific you are, the better.
Once you have a plan, find others who are willing to join in your cause. Whether the school expresses interest in solar or not, make a petition and get as many people to sign it as possible. You can even publish an ad in the school paper to score more signatures. Even high school students have found this method to be a powerful motivator in influencing older generations to take action.
5. Speak to Staff
As sustainability becomes a priority in higher education, more schools are hiring sustainability chairs, directors and councils to oversee green campus initiatives. Connect with these staff members to discuss new ideas and potential projects. Odds are they could use some help fundraising or raising awareness for renewables and sustainability, in general.
If your university isn't as sustainably-minded or simply doesn't have the means to create additional positions, talk to an environmental science professor about your interest in going solar. These staff members often have a vast network of professionals, so they can point you in the right direction.
Influencing your university to go solar will take gumption, determination and, most importantly, initiative. If you don't do it, who else will? Be a leader and take action today. If you're passionate, others will follow in your footsteps. You just have to be the first one to try.