Top Ten Sustainable Initiatives of Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Georgia Tech, is located in Georgia’s capital city of Atlanta. One of the primary concerns for Georgia Tech has always been environmental stewardship. The university wants their students, administration, faculty, and staff to live and work in an environment that is sustainable, and then carry on that experience and way of life once they venture outside of the campus borders. Aside from research and education roles, Georgia Tech looks to demonstrate sustainable practices as well, including in its management of resources, operations, construction, maintenance, and auxiliary services, like dining, athletics, and housing. Here are just a few of the sustainable initiatives that Georgia Tech has taken on recently.

1 ) Georgia Tech Office of Sustainability. The Georgia Tech Office of Sustainability believes in environmental and sustainable stewardship by making the entire campus a living sustainability laboratory. The goal of the office is the make the students, faculty, administration, and staff work and live in a very sustainable environment and then take that way of life and transfer it to what they do when they leave the university. The Office of Sustainability is in charge of all the sustainable campus operations, including energy use, sustainable buildings, alternative energy, alternative transportation, land use, storm water management, water use, food, and recycling.

2 ) Administration. Georgia Tech remains committed to increasing sustainability throughout the campus via a formal plan and policy regarding the topic. The Sustainability Planning Committee is tasked with working on a large number of initiatives, including the creation of a zero net energy research building on campus. The administration has also created a green purchasing policy that mandates the procurement of environmentally preferable appliances, computers, cleaning products, office supplies, lighting, electronics, as well as paper products.

3 ) Climate Change and Energy. Since the year 2007, Georgia Tech has been able to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by six percent. The objective is to lower emissions by a minimum of 15 percent by the year 2020. In an effort to meet this objective, the university has established a number of things, including installed energy management systems, temperature setbacks, heat recovery systems, temperature control timers, LED lighting in most buildings, as well as vending machine sensors in a majority of campus buildings that turn on when a student or employee approaches but then turns back off.

4 ) Food and Recycling. The two main dining halls in Georgia Tech are 98 percent waste neutral. This is done through a unique combination of pre-consumer and postconsumer composting, a trayless program, recycling efforts, as well as other factors. This is furthered by the fact that approximately 40 percent of the Dining Service’s annual food budget goes toward locally made products, including organic meat, fruit, dairy, and vegetables. The campus only serves fair trade coffee to all faculty members, administrators, staff members, and students, and all purchases for seafood meet the sustainable fisheries guidelines.

5 ) Green Building. All brand new buildings on the campus at Georgia Tech as well as renovations to all current buildings are required to at least meet the standards associated with LEED Gold Certification, as outlined by the United States Green Building Council. So far, the university has more than 30 buildings that meet the criteria listed in the LEED guidelines and 64 that meet the LEED-EB criteria. There have been multiple spaces around the university that have been repurposed for various alternative uses. A majority of the buildings use various water-saving technologies, including water metering and low flow showerheads and faucets. Furthermore, the university diverts almost 100 percent of all its demolition and construction waste from local area landfills.

6 ) Student Involvement. There are 30 volunteer interns and 15 paid interns that work on sustainability efforts throughout the university. Georgia Tech also runs an eco-reps program involving over 30 students – both undergraduate and graduate levels. All new students to Georgia Tech are introduced the school’s sustainability efforts at orientation. As well, every year the university sponsors an annual energy conservation competition.

7 ) Transportation. Georgia Tech has their own bike sharing program that is open to not just students, but also faculty, administration, and staff at the university. The university also provides a variety of incentives for employees that choose to carpool to work. There are discounts given by the university for the local area public transportation, and the university has a free shuttle service to get students and employees around the campus. There is also a car-sharing program on campus, and the Georgia Tech motor fleet includes almost 90 electric vehicles.

8 ) Water Alliance. The Water Alliance is a campus-based organization that was established in conjunction with the Water Resources Institute at Georgia Tech. The group was established to place a spotlight on issues that were related to clean drinking water and water sanitation, and to demonstrate all the research currently being done throughout the campus that is related to water resources and water, as well as increase awareness throughout the Georgia Tech campus about the implications of global water scarcity.

9 ) Tech Beautification Day. Every year, Georgia Tech holds Tech Beautification Day. Established in 1998, it is a day where the students of the university are able to give back to the campus through a number of ways, including landscaping, general cleanup, and bringing together the community at Georgia Tech to increase all sustainability efforts. It is held every spring on campus and just about everyone gets involved with the efforts.

10 ) Green Cleaning. The Housing Department at Georgia Tech ensures that all residence halls are cleaned using only green cleaning supplies. These are cleaning supplies that do not contain any harmful chemicals and do not cause any negative reactions by the students living in the dormitory or to the environment as well. Aside from all the dormitories on Georgia Tech’s campus, the green cleaning ideals also spread to the North Avenue Apartments as well. All cleaning products have the green seal of certification that it is sustainable and good for the environment.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at

Skip to toolbar