Zero waste zone, carbon footprint, water conservation, renewable energy are the buzz words when it comes to sustainability of environment. A paper titled 'Environmental Performance Studies' on educational institutions' presented in the International Journal of Environmental Sciences states that educational campuses consume more natural resources than any small and medium enterprise (SMES).
As per the paper a developing university consumes about 8,00,000 liters of water and uses about 5,333 kilowatt hour of electricity per day for their operations. There are approximately more than 7,00,000 educational institutions operating all over India. "Since education institutes have the funds and also acres of land under their ownership, they are the best agents of change when it comes to environment awareness," says Amit Jathar, member of MOB, an NGO that works on water harvesting and recycling across Maharashtra. In 2006, MOB worked with DG Ruparel College of Arts Science and Commerce, on a water harvesting project which was implemented using three harvesting techniques—subsurface recharge, surface recharge and rooftop recharge. "Today the college gets 70,000 litre of water almost 20,000 litre more than the original requirement of the institute," Jathar illustratres. Following the success, Wadia Campus in Pune home to five colleges spread across 27 acres of land adopted this technique and saved Rs 17 lakh spent on buying tanker water.
Another institute working on water conservation is the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Kanchipuram. "Water is an integral part of our campus and every effort is taken to minimise wastage by installing water efficient fixtures, low flow dual?flush toilets, sensor based urinals and other low flow fixtures to reduce water consumption by over 32.52 per cent. And 100 per cent of wastewater is being treated onsite," informs Bala V Balachandran, founder and dean, Great Lakes Institute of Management.
The institute also beleives in eco-friendly infrastructure that facilitates air ventilation and waste management effectively. "Our campus is spread horizontally and has been built keeping in view the air corridors which help in cooling the temperature, thus reducing the power consumption," explains Balachandran. Also the efficient Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) air-conditioning system has helped the B-school to cut power consumption by 20 per cent.
At the IIT-B campus major initiatives include Solar Thermal Water Heaters, generation of biogas at the biogas plant from food waste produced in hostels, establishment of vermiculture facility wherein wet garbage collected from various sources is recycled and turned into usable manure. The tech institute is also in the process of installing a 1MWp (1 MW peak PV power) distributed rooftop Solar PV Power Plant on the roofs of its academic buildings that will supply up to 50 per cent of peak load demand of 16 academic buildings. The electrical energy generated by the Solar PV plant will be up to 25 per cent of the total energy requirement of these buildings. According to Devang V Khakhar, director, IIT-B, "Solar energy has great potential to meet our growing requirements. The 1MW plant will enable us to reduce our electricity bills by five per cent and it is expected that the investment made in this venture will be paid back in five years."
Smaller initiatives taken at the campus include rest-rooms and elevators fitted with occupancy sensors to save electricity, battery operated buses to ferry students on the campus alternatively the use of bicycles to move around the property is also encouraged.
At the Prin LN Welingkar Institute of Managment Development and Research, Mumbai, the institute building is a vertical structure with an open space in the middle. This helps in good air ventilation and also gives enough space to accomodate a number of classrooms and laboratories. "An eco-friendly building is the first step towards spreading awareness about the environment," says Uday Salunkhe, group director, WeSchool. He further adds that when we compare ourselves to institutes abroad, we realise that it is a long way towards being the participants in sustaining the environment.
Educationists suggest that it is important for institutions to go green not only from the point of view of protecting the environment but also from teaching the youth the importance of maintaining ecological balance and ensuring sustainable development. A Green committee has been formed at Great Lakes, for which the applications are invited from interested students at the beginning of each year. While the committee is mentored by a faculty member, other teaching and non-teaching staff members also participate in this activity. "Our students have spearheaded activities such as reducing paper consumption, sapling plantation, creating awareness about environment friendly practices, etc.," informs Balachandran.
At IIT-B, Vanmahotsav is celebrated every year, where all students, faculty and residents of the campus together plant saplings at a designated spot within the campus. "Our initiatives are not to save money or reduce our carbon foot-print, but also an opportunity to understand how these systems function. We are exploring news ways to harness alternate and clean sources of energy," says Khakhar.
WeSchool encourages students to come up with environment-friendly product ideas. Under the theme of 'Humanising A Metropolis', participants from across the country along with international counterparts came up with innovative products to conserve water, mange household waste and create open spaces in key areas of the city. "Smart tap meters that monitor your water use at home, taps with regulators to help fight the laziness of closing the tap are some of the smart and responsible products that the students came up with," says Salunkhe.
Experts are of the opinion that a lot needs to be done in the space of environment sustainance. According to Jathar, institutes restrict their eco-friendly activities only to follow UGC guideline of having an environment subject in the curriculum or abide by municipal corporation's norms to have roof top harvesting. "Willingness to act voluntarily beyond guidelines and diktats is the need of the hour," he elucidates. "I agree that Indian educational institutions are not sufficiently enlightened about eco-friendly campuses. However, the awareness and enthusiasm in this direction is growing and institutions are taking active measures for turning green," says Balachandran.
Institutes and Environment:
1) IIM-Kozhikode (IIM-K) has created a water harvesting pond since the MBA institute doesn't have a natural water source large enough to hold copious rainfall.
2) Vellore Institute of Technology's (VIT) latest initiative is a 2 MW solar photovoltaic grid interactive project, which doesn't need a separate storage facility. Ventus, a company specialising in solar energy, is setting up this plant on 7.5 acres of land provided by VIT.
3) Christ Church, Bangalore has been making a conscious effort to establish the campus as a 'zero waste' zone, through the concept of 'reduce, reuse and recycle' and contribute mite to protecting the environment.
4) People's Education Society Institute of Technology (PESIT), Bangalore takes pride in its chief gardener, who plays an important role in showcasing flowers at the annual Lalbagh flower show. Apart from plantation, the college has also taken up rainwater harvesting, for which a drainage system has been developed to accumulate rainwater near the student hostels.