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US: Rapid growth in campus sustainability activities

More than 66 sustainability-focused academic programmes were created in North America last year, at least 13 sustainability-themed research centres opened and plans were announced for 33 more, according to the just-published digest of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The AASHE Digest 2008 documents the continued rapid growth of campus sustainability in the US and Canada.

The Digest also reveals that nearly 300 signatories of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment publicly reported their greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, some 130 campus green buildings were planned, started, opened or awarded certification, and more than 50 sustainability-focused community engagement initiatives were announced by US and Canadian institutions.

The 356-page AASHE publication features initiatives from nearly 700 institutions organised into 28 chapters covering education and research, campus operations, and administration and finance, and contains more than 90 new campus sustainability resources released in 2008.

Digest stories also document the expansion of systems that evaluate and compare campuses on sustainability criteria. Among other developments in 2008 the Princeton Review included a green rating in its annual college guide for the first time; AASHE conducted a pilot of its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, STARS, and legislation was passed to create a University Sustainability Grants Program that will offer grants to develop, implement and evaluate sustainability curricula, practices and academic programmes.

"Whether helping to build a green economy, tackling climate change, or shaping local and national policies, our colleges and universities are right at the forefront of change," said Judy Walton acting executive director of the AASHE, an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future.

"Despite the global economic downturn, or perhaps in part because of it, the creative energy behind sustainability initiatives is flourishing."
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