The term “green university” is commonly known in the world as all kinds of activities under the vision of “sustainable development.” It also represents an important responsibility undertaken by higher education for the development of society. In the international society, the concept of “sustainable development” can be traced back to scholars of ecological conservation in the late 19th century and early 20th century, such as March, Pinchot, and Muir, who raise questions on the sustainable development of ecology and environment and demonstrate the balance of natural resources and their development and application (ZhuangYu-zhen 2005).
Since 1950s, due to the fast development of economy and industry, the surface water, underground water, air, and soil in the US have been seriously polluted. The issue of environmental protection has gradually been valued in the world. In the State of the Union Address on environmental qualities to the US congress, president Richard Nixon emphasizes that people in each phase should receive environment education, understand the basic concept and awareness of environment, and cultivate proper citizen’s competence. During 1970 and 1980, the US congress had passed more than 20 environmental protection bills. It is called “Environmental Decade” in the history of the development of environmental protection (ZhuangYu-zhen 2005).
In one of the celebrations of Earth Day in 1970, some students buried a car to symbolize the seriousness of human’s damage to the environment. Because of this event, people became realized the connection between environment and education and its importance. The problem of energy crisis in 1970 gave rise to people’s attention to the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable development in campus (Bartlett & Chase, 2004). The role a university plays in environmental protection is hence revealed in many solutions and measures, and the blueprint of “green university” is also outlined.
The initial purpose for the development of “green university” is to reduce bad influence on the environment caused by the operation of university because it uses a large amount of electricity, oil, gas, water, chemicals, and other resources. A university with large campus and many students takes more resources than a simple community and institution, or some enterprises. Besides, a large amount of wastes, wastewater, chemicals, and poisonous wastes are produced during the operation of a university, causing environmental problems for the campus and its neighborhood.
Therefore, the fundamental task for early development of green university is to reduce the impact of environmental problems on the campus and community. Some university environment movements to solve these problems were activated accordingly (Creighton, 1998; Bartlett & Chase, 2004).