The environment is the number one concern for Gen Z, with college students mostly falling squarely in this age demographic. For millennial students coming back to college, opinions by some metrics show even stronger support for sustainability. While the environmental sustainability of your school is not the only reason students may choose to enroll, it can be a great way to connect with prospective students.
Is Sustainability Just for Environmental Science Students?
Many people entering college are concerned about the environment, and one survey found that 75% of college students report being worried about climate change. However, though more students are considering careers related to the environment, not every student who cares is planning on entering these professions. Across the board, students would like their colleges to promote sustainable practices, whether they are majoring in nursing, accounting, or sports management. So even colleges with no academic climate science programs should be working towards more sustainable operations—and marketing this factor to potential students.
If your school has many environmental initiatives, it can be a boon to your advertising. For instance, the Sierra Club featured the top ten of America’s “greenest” universities in their magazine. Yet even if your school isn’t as focused on sustainability, any efforts your college makes in that direction can become part of your marketing. When a student is comparing one program to another, the feel-good factor of knowing your university supports the environment may make a difference in college choice.
What Makes for a “Sustainable Campus?”
Colleges around the world are concerned with improving their impact on the environment. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, here are the areas to consider:
- Air pollution: Measuring and taking steps to decrease your school’s air pollutant emissions can positively affect the health of your local community and wildlife.
- Buildings: Providing students with a safe and healthy indoor environment is more critical since Covid. In addition, building maintenance, renovation, design, and construction can pay attention to sustainability.
- Community engagement: Education and outreach on campus to spread the word about conservation and encourage positive behavior can help your campus develop a culture of sustainability.
- Planning and infrastructure: Institutions need to create an infrastructure that allows departments to coordinate and plan initiatives that improve sustainability.
- Curriculum: Programs, classes, and embedded academic experiences can promote and educate students about the environment.
- Diversity, equity, and affordability: A more affordable college, with initiatives to promote equity and diversity, will more readily support the idea of sustainability. Education that is accessible to more people creates a more equitable world.
- Energy consumption: Colleges can reduce the amount of energy they use, switch to renewable energy sources, and encourage the development of cleaner energy sources in their communities.
- Food and dining: Dining services can be more sustainable when they focus on procuring local foods, which support communities and have a lower environmental impact. Sustainable procurement practices can be combined with a focus on lower meat consumption, reducing food waste, and other initiatives to educate eaters.
- Campus grounds: The landscaping can be greener by using fewer chemicals, planting appropriate plants, and caring for the outdoor environment on campus and the surrounding areas.
- Investments: How finances and assets are handled has often been a focus of student protests. Responsible and transparent investment practices can further environmental goals.
- Public engagement: Interactions with the community can improve relations, provide leadership opportunities for students, and further the institution’s reputation as a leader in sustainability.
- Purchasing: Just as consumers are moving towards buying sustainable products, institutions’ vast purchasing power can encourage suppliers to implement more sustainable practices.
- Research: Research institutions can become part of the solution by supporting programs to monitor and address environmental challenges.
- Transportation: Campuses can lead by making sustainable transportation options available.
- Waste: Waste reduction and proper trash handling can be another avenue for a greener campus footprint.
- Water: Water is a looming global problem, and conserving and reusing water can be part of the solution. Colleges can model responsible behavior to affect university stakeholders, the surrounding community, and businesses.
- Wellbeing: Implementing wellness programs for students and staff is one element of wellness. Attention to fair wages and benefits, safety on the job, and building a strong campus community can round out efforts for a sustainable campus.
How to Market Sustainability Efforts
With all the possible metrics, your campus likely has multiple green initiatives underway. Communicate with the appropriate departments to determine what is being done and how best to communicate environmental efforts to potential students. How you include sustainability in the messaging about your school can influence prospective students and families but also bolster your institution’s reputation as a whole.
If you would like help to incorporate sustainability messaging in your marketing strategy, contact us today!