Many students assess a potential college based upon the content of the curriculum, the prestige or reputation of the school and the employability of graduates. The College Sustainability Report Card allows them to consider schools based on criteria that is quickly growing in importance.
This independent evaluation of campus endowment and sustainability activities (now in its fifth year), surveys and grades environmental sustainability efforts at 322 schools in the United States and Canada. In contrast to academic focus on sustainability in research and teaching, the report card examines colleges and universities, as institutions as a whole through nine main areas:
Climate Change & Energy
Food & Recycling
We’ve talked about how these schools have addressed sustainability through climate change and energy as well as administration practices. The rest of the report card sheds similarly bright light on sustainability matters equally important to prospective students and their families.
With the work we’ve done in universities around the country we were particularly interested in the findings associated with green building. Overall the grades weren’t as high as other categories but there was still plenty to be optimistic about. More than half the schools surveyed either had a LEED certified building on campus or are in the process of building one. While we’re hoping that number will grow in the coming years it was still promising to see that over three quarters of schools have adopted green building policies.
Much of the decision making process is handled at high levels within the university hierarchy. However student involvement is still crucial. To that end, nearly three-quarter of schools have received a grade of ‘B’ or higher for their student involvement practices. Over two in five schools had student representation on its board of trustees with close to the same amount providing green residences, described as: “A living space where students work to reduce their resource use and/or a dedicated green residence for eco-minded students is offered by 45 percent of the schools.”
This report is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leading by example on sustainability. The aim is to provide accessible information for schools to learn from each other’s experiences and establish more effective sustainability policies. An additional goal is to create a culture of green competitiveness between institutions in much the same way as the publication of academic results. This can only be good news. As schools strive to improve or maintain their report card grade, standards in sustainability will be raised across all participating colleges.