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Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was recognized as a one of the country’s most green universities by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Princeton Review.

On April 19, the EPA released the names of the top 26 colleges and universities honored for their individual green power purchase among all respective schools in their athletic conferences. UW Oshkosh was recognized as the conference champion for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The University used 6,533,255 kilowatt hours of green power in 2009.

UW Oshkosh also was selected for inclusion in a new resource for college applicants: The Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges, published April 20. Developed by The Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the Guide to 286 Green Colleges is the first comprehensive guidebook focused solely on institutions of higher education who have demonstrated an above-average commitment to sustainability in terms of campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.

“We are proud to be recognized as a green university by the EPA and The Princeton Review,” said Mike Lizotte, director of sustainability at UW Oshkosh. “The University has been a leader in campus sustainability for more than a decade, serving as a pioneer in working toward carbon neutrality, supporting Fair Trade labor practices, reducing energy consumption and building facilities that reflect UW Oshkosh’s commitment to sustainability.”

Since making the commitment to be a green University, UW Oshkosh has hit several milestones in sustainability. In 2002, UW Oshkosh was one of a small number of universities to endorse the Earth Charter. In 2003, the university became the first Wisconsin university to join the EPA’s Green Partnership by agreeing to purchase at least 3 percent of its energy from alternative sources. In 2008, UW Oshkosh declared itself a Fair Trade University, the first in the United States, by committing to the purchase and use of fair trade products whenever feasible. Following a comprehensive and sophisticated carbon-footprint study conducted by Johnson Controls, the University recently established one of the nation’s most aggressive Climate Action Plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. Earlier this year, UW Oshkosh was approved to build the nation’s first dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester, which will convert yard and food waste into fuel.

“While the University has shown a commitment to sustainable operations for a number of years, today UW Oshkosh is guided by a very comprehensive Sustainability Plan, implemented in 2008, which encompasses sustainability not only in campus operations and green construction, but also in research, throughout the curriculum and in the many services the University provides to the region,” said Chancellor Richard H. Wells.

The University offers students the opportunity to get involved through internships and by joining the Student Environmental Action Coalition, the Oshkosh Community Garden or simply by following more sustainable practices one individual at a time. Students who plan to pursue environmental careers after college also can take advantage of UW Oshkosh’s extensive environmental career resources, which include an annual panel on sustainability careers and access to subscriber-only environmental job listings. UW Oshkosh offers majors in environmental studies and environmental health; moreover, 47 percent of academic departments offer environment- or sustainability-related classes.

Additionally, construction is underway on two new buildings that will be built to at least Gold LEED standards, utilizing such features as a geothermal heat field, green roofs and solar energy.

“Students and their parents are becoming more and more interested in learning about and attending colleges and universities that practice, teach and support environmental responsibility,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher of The Princeton Review. “According to our recent College Hope & Worries Survey, 64 percent of college applicants and their parents said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would impact their decision to apply to or attend it. We created this guide to help them evaluate how institutions like UW Oshkosh focuses on environmental responsibility so that they can make informed decisions as they move through the college assessment and application process.”

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