Five historically black colleges and universities are taking bold steps to preserve the environment and build healthier communities for African-Americans throughout the United States. From growing organic foods, to improving food safety, to monitoring weather patterns, these HBCUs are bringing valuable research and support in benefit to their students, and the world.
1. Spelman College - Widely known as the premier academic destination for African-American women, Spelman College is also the most environmentally-conscious HBCU in the nation. Spelman was the first HBCU with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-Certified dormitory, has adopted a extensive Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, has a trayless dining program with no trans-fat and vegan options, and incorporates sustainability into its academic curriculum and social development program. And, in 2012, the school made national headlines with its student health conservation plan by abandoning its intercollegiate sports in favor of a campus-wide wellness program.
2. Paul Quinn College - The organic farm that grows on a former football field in Dallas, TX is one of the nation’s great urban sustainability stories. Since its inception in 2010, the WE Over ME farm has grown more than 20,000 pounds of organic vegetables to support underserved families in the area’s food desert, and serves as food vendor for many of Dallas’ elite restaurants and the Dallas Cowboys’ concessions services. But the farm isn’t just about sustainable agriculture. Staffed by faculty, staff and students, it also serves as a training hub for the school’s social entrepreneurship program, and hosts the college’s signature fundraiser, the ‘A Community Cooks’ program featuring Dallas’ top chefs cooking at portable grills and stations surrounding the farm.
3. Johnson C. Smith University - JCSU is leading a comprehensive approach to campus-wide sustainability. An aggressive partner with Charlotte’s environmental preservation goals, the JCSU campus is home to a community aquaponic farm, growing fresh tilapia and vegetables for resale and donation to area food banks. In 2014, the university will complete construction on a new science center which will house its new Center for Renewable Energy. Additionally, the university has embarked on a revitalization project for Charlotte’s West End, bringing arts, dining and retail to the city’s northwest corridor through the JCSU Mosaic Village.
4. Jackson State University - JSU is promoting sustainability in many of its campus operations. The school has shifted to a paperless payroll system for its employees, and as an Apple Distinguished School, has incorporated iPad technology in the undergraduate curriculum to cut its paper consumption and textbook orders. Additionally, JSU students have planted sustainable vegetable gardens throughout the community surrounding the university, and they distribute energy efficient lightbulbs to households free of charge to save citizens’ energy costs.
5. Virginia State University - Through its cooperative extension program, Virginia State University promotes sustainable agricultural practices, and stronger local economies in and around Petersburg, VA. Assisting independent farmers with risk assessment, federal loan application processes and entrepreneurial development, VSU helps generations of current and potential farmers grow produce and business savvy through instruction on best practices and exposure to new technologies in aquaponics and alternative crops. Additionally, VSU provides agricultural research to provide farmers with strategies to avoid crop infestation and foodborne illness.