Colleges Get Sustainability Report Card

by | Oct 9, 2009

reportcardlogoThe Sustainable Endowments Institute has released its 2010 College Sustainability Report Card comparing 322 schools across the U.S. on how “green” they are, reports College News. Key findings show that 56 percent of colleges earned higher grades that they have in previous reports, while only 13 percent declined slightly in their green performance, according to the Web site.

The report grades the schools on several categories including: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green buildings, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement.

The report gave the award of Overall College Sustainability Leaders to 26 schools which received an average grade of A- or better across all categories. These schools ranged from state schools such as Arizona State and the Universities of Minnesota to large universities like Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Wesleyan, according to College News.

Some schools showed significant improvement including the College of William and Mary, which went from a C to a B; and The New School, which went from a D- to a C+, according to the New York Times. Overall, half of the schools in the report received a grade of B- or better.

The report finds that almost half of the schools have green building projects. Forty-four percent have at least one LEED-certified green building or are in the process of constructing one, and 75 percent have adopted green building policies that specify certain minimum performance levels such as achieving LEED certification on new construction. The average grade for the green building category is C+.

Fifty-eight percent of the schools have made a carbon reduction commitment. Fifty-two percent of the schools have signed the President’s Climate Commitment, while 23 percent made carbon reduction commitments in addition to, or instead of, the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. More than two-thirds of the schools have conducted a carbon emissions inventory, and 69 percent of the schools have conducted an inventory of their carbon emissions.

The report also notes that two in five schools purchase renewable energy. Forty percent of the schools either purchase renewable energy directly from their utility providers or buy renewable energy credits equivalent to a percentage of their campus energy use.

In addition, nearly half of the schools produce renewable energy on campus. Facilities for producing solar, wind, bio, or geothermal energy are in operation at 45 percent of the schools. The average grade for the Climate Change & Energy category is C+.

Eighty-three percent of the schools purchase food from local farms and/or producers and nearly two-thirds have a community garden or farm on campus. Fair trade coffee and other fair trade food items are available at 91 percent of the schools.

Pre- and post-consumer food waste composting programs exist at 55 percent of the schools, while 68 percent have reduced their energy and food waste by eliminating trays in their dining facilities. The average grade for the Food & Recycling category is B.

The report card Web portal allows universal access to sustainability data from 332 schools including the ability to compare schools.

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