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Purple ... and green

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By Optic Editorial Board

The way in which Highlands University has embraced and invested in environmentally friendly, energy-efficient practices makes one wonder if maybe green should be added to the school colors.

At the very least, the university should be credited for thinking green — and saving some green too, over the long term.

Some university-generated numbers that back up the idea that energy efficiency is fiscally smart: Highlands’ newest residence hall, built in 2009, is a 98,634-square-foot facility. That’s a lot of space to heat and cool and light up, and yet since its construction, the university’s natural gas consumption has decreased 18 percent, its water consumption is down 19 percent and electricity is up only 4 percent. It’s hard to look at those numbers and not be impressed with the savings.

Highlands has been repeatedly recognized for such feats, and not just with the residence hall. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications, an independent rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, have been awarded for Highlands’ Natatorium, the Felix Martinez building and the residence hall. The Lora Shields science building, which has also been renovated recently into a more energy-efficient facility, may be the next facility to receive such a certification, while the student center is being built using LEED specs.

Those are the larger examples of Highlands’ accomplishments, but there are plenty of smaller projects that make Highlands gleam with green: rainwater catchment systems, hybrid vehicles, a top-notch recycling program, xeriscaping to replace the Astroturf as it wears out, energy-efficient lighting systems, low-flow toilets and more are all becoming commonplace at Highlands.

These are excellent examples for the larger Las Vegas-area community. Yes, the costs can be initially high but the long-term savings make such projects worthwhile. Plus, it’s good for the environment, and that’s responsible stewardship.

Credit state incentives under former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration, which funneled millions of dollars into such projects, as well as a Board of Regents and a university president who decided to do something substantial and long-lasting with the funds. The benefits are tremendous — for the environment, the school, its faculty, staff and students, and the larger community. Thanks, Highlands, for adding a whole new color to our school pride.