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WCU designated a ‘green college’ for 10th year by The Princeton Review

By Geoff CantrellGreen College

WCU’s Sustainable Energy Initiative works with renewable energy projects, energy efficiency improvements, research and internships on campus. Student leadership (left to right) is Hope Blanchard, project manager; Blakely Fahning, SEI chair; Sarah Lown, project manager; Kara McMullen, SEI vice chair; and Antonella Senatore, SEI secretary.

For a decade, Western Carolina University has been listed by The Princeton Review as one of the most environmentally responsible and ecologically connected institutions in North America.

WCU is included in the 2021 edition of the education services company’s “Guide to Green Colleges.” The guide profiled higher education institutions that were found to have strong commitments to ecologically friendly practices and programs during the company’s survey of nearly 700 schools. Criteria for making the guide included the schools’ academic offerings and initiatives, campus policies and practices, and green career preparation for students.

Among academic offerings that helped earn the green campus designation are courses in environmental science, geology, natural resource conservation and management, and earth science education. WCU also offers a new master’s degree program in experiential and outdoor education, offered through the College of Education and Allied Professions, and intended for working outdoor professionals.

“WCU’s ongoing commitment to undergraduate and graduate programs that utilize its unique natural environment is evidenced in the launch of one of its most recent graduate programs in experiential and outdoor education,” said Andrew J. Bobilya, a professor and program director. “This master’s degree is the first of its kind in the state of North Carolina.”

Among university practices for a natural, sustainable setting that are an ongoing part of being a green college are award-winning recycling efforts, energy reduction programs and maintaining native plants on campus.

“This recognition is a testament to the efforts of many campus leaders, from our energy manager, David King, who is constantly working behind the scenes finding ways to conserve energy, to our amazing students who work in a variety of ways to implement sustainability on campus,” said Lauren Bishop, the university’s chief sustainability officer.

King attributes the success to WCU constantly striving for infrastructure upgrades that are both more environmentally compatible and energy efficient, as well as cost beneficial. “We’ve continued to slowly ‘bootstrap’ ourselves up. With each HVAC controls upgrade, we capture more energy savings to fund future projects, creating a positive feedback loop,” said King. “Last year, we saved almost 1.8 million kilowatt hours. For perspective, that would be the equivalent of adding more than 4,000 solar panels to campus.”

For more information about WCU’s sustainability efforts, contact Bishop at 828-227-3562 or

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