52 Customer Stories
#47 – WM promotes sustainability to educators
Phoenix – According to an annual survey conducted by the Census Bureau, the number of students enrolling
in college fell by roughly half a million last year. While there were many reasons for this, like rising tuition,
universities are now more than ever facing pressure to differentiate themselves from other schools.
For two universities, Arizona State University (ASU) and Notre Dame, going green is a key differentiator that
has pushed them to make a number of investments in sustainability. Over the years, WM has used its Think
Green Campus Model to collaborate with these colleges to help them reach their goals. Now, the three are
using their experience to educate other schools about what it takes to make higher education more sustainable.
Last September, WM sponsored a webinar with GreenBiz that was attended by nearly 400 people, most associated
with higher education. Titled “Sustain your Campus. Sustain your Brand.” the webinar featured customers ASU
and Notre Dame who conveyed how enhancing their sustainability initiatives has elevated their overall school brand.
The schools shared how they are aggressively pursuing their sustainability goals to differentiate themselves from
The presentation kicked-off with Education Program Manager, Boi-Yeanoh Adams, who discussed the wide-ranging
benefits that sustainability can bring to a university brand. Adams stated that, in addition to attracting prospective
students, a school could use its sustainability branding to position itself as an environmental thought leader, engage
students and staff, and improve the quality of life on campus with targeted sustainability initiatives.
According to Nick Brown, Director of Sustainability Practices at ASU, one key way to brand an institution for
sustainability is to “invest in sustainable applications.” That’s why the school has spent over $50 million in 2013 on
environmental projects, including energy conservation, waste diversion, recycling and solar energy.
In fact, for some things that they purchase (like vehicles), ASU will pay up to 10 percent more if there’s a significant
green benefit. It’s that longer-term view that has enabled ASU to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent over
the last five years. During that same time, enrollment has increased 24 percent.
The focus on sustainability also influences ASU’s curriculum. In recent years, ASU has grown its School of Sustainability,
which in 2012 produced 163 graduates – all educated on subjects such as climate action planning and sustainable applications.
“We’re trying to find the right balance of theory and practical education,” Brown said.
On the other side of the continent is Notre Dame, known for the gold helmets of the Fighting Irish. What you may not know about
the university is how sustainable they are. Erin Hafner, Programs Manager of the Office of Sustainability, shared Notre Dame’s
three key sustainability goals guiding campus life and overall growth:
- Reducing emissions – over the last six years Notre Dame has seen a 35 percent reduction
- Conserving resources – thanks in part to a single-stream recycling program more than 40 percent of their materials
are diverted from the landfill
- Increasing awareness – students and faculty all learn how they play a part
To reach these goals, Notre Dame has a sustainability plan for virtually every facet of campus life. For example, when it comes to
food service, much of the leftovers are either diverted to homeless shelters or processed for agricultural purposes. When it comes
to construction, buildings opened since 2009 are all LEED-certified. And when it comes to transportation, the campus uses electric
vehicles, hybrids and encourages students to use bikes.
Both of these universities are terrific examples of what a higher education institution can do to be more sustainable and enhance their
brand, and how WM, leveraging its Think Green Campus Model, can help other colleges and universities do the same.
More webinars are planned for both Higher Education and K-12 in 2014 – stay tuned!
Caption: Notre Dame game day celebrations.