Creating more sustainable campuses: Bikes on campus

Bikes are a common sight on business school campuses around the world and are very popular with both students and staff alike. In this edition of “creating more sustainable campuses,” we look at a variety of innovative ways that campuses and the cities that they are located in are becoming more bike friendly.

  • In 2011 the League of American Bicyclists awarded a range of campuses across the US Bike Friendly University Awards. University of California Davis, who was awarded gold, offers Summer Bicycle Storage and regular auctions on campus and on eBay to sell abandoned and unclaimed bicycles. Students also have access to courses on bike repair and maintenance on campus. Other winners included University of Wisconsin-Madison  University of Maryland, University of Colorado.
  • Stanford has over 12,000 bike racks on campus and maps showing bike paths on and off campus. Students also have access to a range of bike safety repair stands where they can make minor repairs and pump their tires for free as well as free rentals of folding bikes. All this is organized by Stanford’s campus bicycle coordinator.
  • The University of Oregon’s Outdoor Program’s Bike Program, which provides bike loans, a free shop, and education on campus, is entirely student funded and operated.
  • In a project designed to increase awareness about alternative modes of transportation, faculty and Staff at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France have access to electric bicycles 4 weeks each year (trial phase), which are reservable for a 24 hour period free of charge. The school also has over 100 covered car parking spaces that have been turned into bike parking for the growing number of bikes on campus.
  • A growing number of schools, including Winchester Business School, offer subsidies and/or interest free loans for staff interested in buying bicycles for their daily commute to campus.
  • Newcastle University in the UK has a self-service bike sharing system called WhipBikes. Faculty and students pay a one-time registration fee that enables them to use any of the 150 bikes scattered across campus. If they want to use a bike, they simply pick the one they want and text its number to WhipBikes, which replies with the lock code for that bike.
  • Cities around the world are putting in free public bike systems, which are being used extensively by students.  At John Molson School of Business, Concordia University students have access to Montreal’s extensive public bike system, which features over 5,000 bikes and 400 stations, many on/near campus. Similar systems can be found on campuses around the world, including in Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam and across Asia.
  • For students from Copenhagen Business School, Norwegian gas company Statoil has equipped five of its stations across the city with Cykelpleje centers dedicated to bicycle maintenance and repair. Students of Pamplin School of Business Administration, University of Portland travelling through Portland International Airport have a special bike repair section in the lower terminal, where they can take apart and reassemble their bikes, as well as several bike paths connecting the airport with the city.

Does your campus promote bike use in an innovative way? Please share your experiences and stories in the comments area below.

Creating more sustainable campuses: Banning Water Bottles

Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend of universities banning the sale and purchase water bottles on campuses, in particular in North America, but also internationally.

In 2009, Concordia University* and McGill University launched TAPthirst chapters with the goal to eliminate bottled water from their campuses, and the University of Winnipeg became the first in Canada to end the purchase and sale of bottled water on campus after students initiated a referendum. With the highest voter turnout in years, three quarters of students voted to eliminate the sale of bottle water on campus.

In total, there are 14 Canadian Universities who have banned bottles on campus, all through student led, campus supported campaigns. Others have set out plans to go bottle free over the next couple of years, including Queen’s University,* which has outlined a detailed plan to go bottle free in 2012.

The University of Toronto announced on November 14, 2011 its efforts to stop the sale of bottled water on campus. At the beginning of this academic year, bottled water was no longer available at the majority of locations on campus with plans to phase out the rest over the next three years. Instead, students and faculty have access to new fountains and water refill stations. In order to raise awareness on campus, the school year started with OnTap, a university wide event that included a scavenger hunt where students had to follow clues to identify and locate all of the water fountains on campus.

This past March, on World Water Day, the University of Canberra was the first in Australia to ban the sale of water bottles on campus. As an alternative, they put in place water vending machines that refill a 600ML container with chilled water for $1 or sparkling water for $1.50, much cheaper than bottled water. They have also put in place a range of new refill stations on campus. The whole campaign, again initiated by students, started off as just one day aimed to raise awareness about bottled water.

In the US, 9 schools have banned the sale and purchase of plain bottled water on campus, but many more have started campaigns around the issue. To raise awareness, students at the University of Maryland* took plastic bottles out of trash cans around campus over a two hour period and used them to construct a five foot tall statue. Students also organized a Tap Water Challenge where students, faculty and staff were invited to take a blind taste test to see if they could tell the difference between bottled and tap water.

As part of the I ♡ Tap Water campaign at UC Berkeley, students tested more than 450 water fountains on campus to ensure water quality. Through various public awareness activities, they were able to reduce plastic water bottles on campus by 25%. American University* is upgrading 100 water fountains to include a bottle-friendly faucet. Brown University took their campaign online with their Beyond the Bottle campaign led by student group emPOWER.

In the UK, Leeds University* was the first to ban in 2009 following a student referendum that won 2/3 of the votes. There was an anti-campaign at the time to keep plastic bottles on campus but it lost the vote. This past October, a discussion started online about whether the ban should be removed, but students rejected the idea.

A lot of schools, rather than banning water bottles outright, are mounting educational campaigns to inspire a voluntarily increase in the use of tap water on campus and also increase the amount of recycling of plastic water bottles. UNSW* in Australia put in place Envirobank reverse vending machines in 2010, which allow students and staff to insert empty PET plastic bottles in exchange for ‘Crunch Credits’ or instant win coupons and prizes.

* PRME Signatory

Have you or are you thinking of banning water bottles on campus? Do you think banning bottled water is a good thing or not? Please share your experiences in the comments area below.

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