Two leading Virginia institutions of higher education have demonstrated a commitment to conservation and energy responsibility. Both schools developed plans and principles to guide decisions as they strive to provide the best campus facilities in the 21st century.

Virginia Military Institute’s most noticeable project is its stewardship of the Chessie Nature Trail, a seven mile “Rail-to-Trail” project along the Maury River. The VMI Foundation assumed ownership of the trail from the Nature Conservancy and the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council in order to keep the trail open and well maintained. VMI developed a master plan for the long term preservation of the Chessie Trail which will include interpretive markers so users will learn about the history, geology, flower and fauna of the trail. VMI has an Office of Sustainability and a Committee of Energy Conservation and Sustainability that oversee recycling and energy conservation plans for all VMI facilities. For many years, VMI has hosted the Environment Virginia Conference, which brings together industry, government and the community to discuss issues and options.

Washington & Lee created an Office of Sustainability Initiatives and Education and is making remarkable progress toward energy efficiency and conservation. Most prominent is W&L’s installation of solar panels on the law school and parking garage. This was the largest solar installation in Virginia when it was installed in 2012. Some of W&L’s recent accomplishments include a Campus Garden, a Composting Program, a Sustainability Development House, Energy Audits, a Recycling Program, a Green Offices Initiative, numerous campus activities that offer engagement with student groups, and its University Sustainability Committee.

The Garden Club of Virginia honors VMI and W&L in their commitment to conservation and energy responsibility. Their efforts illustrate what can be accomplished by institutions that care for the environment.

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