Initiatives such as eco-friendly construction and waste and water management have put 24 universities from across the country on GreenMetric 2017, a global list of sustainable institutes.
Think of university rankings and you think of parameters such as placement packages, quality of education and facultystudent ratio. But what if you could rank institutes based on their environment-friendliness?
“Many universities are also small cities and significantly contribute to greenhouse emissions, through laboratories and on-campus transport,” says Junaidi (who goes by one name), an expert on the Universitas Indonesia (UI) GreenMetric team. The group has been rating and ranking universities on environmental sustainability since 2010.
“Universities should also contribute to the mitigating effects of climate change,” Junaidi believes. Nyoman Suwartha, secretary and expert of the UI GreenMetric team adds that “a green campus is not just one with a green landscape, but has environmentally friendly buildings, better waste and water management and public transport or bicycles to reduce emissions.”
UI releases an annual list of sustainable universities across the world. Invitations for application are sent to over 3000 universities, many of which feature in rankings by Webometrics and Times Higher Education. The institutions fill surveys online, detailing their green initiatives and commitments, helping UI formulate their list. The 2017 list, released in December, ranked 619 universities, including 24 from India.
Top rankers include the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Indian Institute of Information Technology & Management (ABV-IIITM), Madhya Pradesh at 164 and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka at 221.
Others include Mangalore University, Karnataka at 231; Assam’s Dibrugarh University at 257; Institute for Financial Management and Research in Andhra Pradesh at 266 and Tamil Nadu’s Kalasalingam University, Tamil Nadu at 281.
On the green road
Over the last five years, Indian universities have amped up eco-friendly efforts to keep up with global trends.
“As an educational entity, we must set an example through our efforts,” says Monowar Khalid, head of the department of environmental science at Integral University, Lucknow, ranked 557 in the list.
Starting 2018, the university will have 30% of its electric supply from solar sources. Campuses across the country have begun interesting initiatives, from rainwater harvesting, water recycling and e-rickshaws for in-campus transport, to waste management at source.
ABV-IIITM, which tops the Indian list, has solar water heaters, electric carts for on-campus transport and compost pits. Over the last year, Panjab University introduced 40 e-rickshaws on campus. “Each ride costs Rs 10,” says M Rajivlochan, director of the university’s Internal Quality Assurance Cell.
There are water-efficient toilets, which use six instead of the standard 12 litres per flush. They’re also planning a system of bicycle transport for daily traffic. “We want to have several points, where one can pick-up and dropoff the bicycle, at no cost,” Rajivlochan says.
Currently up to 45% of the energy at Manipal Academy of Higher Education comes from sustainable sources. Water conservation and recycling have also been initiated. Dibrugarh University hopes to meet 100% of its energy use through solar by the year end.
At Mangalore University, 20-25% of the power is met through solar energy. “We also recycle water from the hostels and the kitchen for irrigating,” says KR Chandrashekar, director of the Internal Quality Assurance Cell. “We have planted local varieties such as artocarpus, which is native to southern India,” he adds.
How it helps
For Derrick Ian Joshua, assistant director of environmental sustainability at MAHE, going green has benefits beyond education. “Apart from the moral impact it has on students and on society, it creates a pollution-free and overall positive environment,” he says.
Xian Quadros, a postgraduate student of audiology and speech pathology at MAHE says being a green campus looks and feels different. “We have colour-coded dustbins for different kinds of waste, and almost no plastic,” she says. “Being here for five years has influenced me to use plastic as little as possible even outside. And studying on a clean and green campus has a feel-good quality,” he adds.
Closer home, the Mumbai University (MU) has been incorporating eco-friendly elements on campuses. “Two buildings, currently under construction at Kalina and Kalyan, are built using the government’s green guidelines,” says Vinod Patil, university engineer at MU.
This includes purchase of cement from green-certified manufacturers, optimal use of natural light and air within the buildings, compulsory afforestation around the premises to make up for the loss of green cover during construction. The university has begun the process to install solar power plants on campus. Together with the municipal corporation, it plans to install a waste recycling plant.
“It’s a substantial patch of green in an otherwise polluted city. Breathing clean air is a bonus to studying here,” says Shivani Bhasin, currently pursuing her Masters in English Literature at the Kalina campus.
It is not just campuses with wide spaces that can take steps to go green. Suwartha has advice for those with limited space. “Optimise electricity and water use, and include green-policies such as waste management and reducing use of paper.”