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Claire Kresge is a clean energy intern with Environment America and a current senior at Boston University.

Last month, organizers with Environment America’s 100% renewable campus campaign attended the annual conference for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), a national association of university administrators, students, and faculty who are dedicated to making their campuses more sustainable.

We know that universities have the capacity to lead their communities by committing to 100% Renewable energy, so focusing on change starting at these institutions is important. Speaking to a room of dozens of students and administrators, we talked through our campaign on a panel that discussed 100% Renewable Energy on college campuses. 

We set a goal of 100% renewable energy because we know that we need to completely transition our energy systems to clean, renewable energy in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. At the same time, there are countless examples of local devastation due to fossil fuel extraction and processing that prove there is no rational place for dirty and dangerous energy in America’s future.

When the federal government fails to take action, states, cities, and universities must make their own commitments to 100% Renewable energy. Among our country’s institutions, universities have some of the greatest capacity and know-how to lead this transition and to raise the bar for the rest of us. By taking bold steps to shift to 100% Renewable energy, universities can lead the path to a cleaner energy future.

The higher education sector serves 20 million students across the country and spends more than $14 billion on energy each year, so these commitments in aggregate would have a major impact. Colleges and universities are also hotspots of innovation and technical expertise, as well as big employers, big energy users, and generally influential institutions. When they make commitments like 100%, their host communities and states pay attention.

Working to achieve 100 percent renewable energy at universities also allows us to train young activists, future leaders and researchers to continue advocacy on clean energy off campus and in their communities.

Environment America helps students and faculty build power and support within their communities so that university administrators can act knowing that their campus is engaged on the issue. Advocating for these kinds of commitments is all about identifying who is making the decision, figuring out how to demonstrate to those people that the community supports 100%, and mobilizing your peers to get involved.

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