College Sustainability Report Card 2011

The College Sustainability Report Card was released last week with overall good news in the report. From the Huffington Post:

Today, the Sustainable Endowments Institute released the fifth edition of its College Sustainability Report Card, which rates 322 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and Canada according to how green they are. The report indicates that significant efforts have been made by many universities to increase levels of sustainability since 2006 — this year, for example, 70 percent of participating schools have a campus farm or garden (up from 9 percent in 2006), 95 percent have a sustainability committee (up from 40 percent in 2006) and a whopping 75 percent have eliminated trays from their dining room tables (up from zero percent in 2006).

Willamette University

Willamette University, my alma mater, got a B+. Woot!

95% have a sustainability committee. Did you catch that? Even if they might now have any sway in the organization, at least 95% of the colleges surveyed at at least doing something talking about it. And that’s exactly the kind of changes we’ll start to see among businesses, too.

I love the idea of this report card.  If you measure and rank, they will compete.  It’s a scientific fact! It’s kind of like the Newsweek Green Rankings, which launched last year.  Suddenly people are measuring all of these factors that businesses didn’t care about, forcing them to care about it. Brilliant! and about time.So the changes are coming swiftly when it comes to campus sustainability.  Maybe we’ll get even more commitments from colleges once they grab the low-hanging-fruit moneysavers.

My favorite part of this list is the importance it gives to transparency, which is paramount in sustainability efforts. Many of the schools with a failing grade didn’t share any of their information with the surveyors. The truth will set you free! Or at least buy you a D+.

But with over 50% of colleges earning a “B” or higher I couldn’t be happier.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Alex, thanks for posting about this. I went to UC Davis and was on the ASUCD Environmental Policy & Planning Commission in 01-02. Very cool to see the UCD report card (A-) and read about initiatives I contributed to almost ten years ago. I wanted to add to some sections; I think UCD gets an A+ in transportation.


  2. Awesome. Thanks for the heads up Alex. I looked up my alma mater (and JP’s, too) and found the score — a solid B for the University of Arizona. Well, actually not so solid — even though the school has an outstanding record of green building (and it should since it’s smack dab in the middle of the desert) it has an F rating for stakeholder engagement. Not too surprising but disappointing, too. What will it take for large institutions to open up and be transparent about their policies? Or small ones even — hello Bainbridge Graduate Institute.




  3. Disappointed my undergrad school is not on the list. They are very sustainability minded, but are perhaps too small to get much attention.

    I agree with your assessment – If we create a new benchmark, the schools will be competitive. I expect a minority of schools to really go all out here and try to make a name for themselves. Hopefully we’ll see some schools specializing in specific areas of sustainability as a way to stand out from the crowd.

    This can only get better with each passing year.


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