After several years of struggling on the college sustainability report card, the University has increased its overall grade from a B-minus last year to an A-minus, which is mostly due to the continuation and implementation of sustainability efforts on campus and a heightened awareness of the sustainability report card.
The college sustainability report card examines campus and endowment sustainability activities at various universities and colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada. More specifically, this report evaluates sustainability in terms of institutions meeting the demands of current students without compromising future generations of students.
As a whole, the UR student body did extremely well on the report card, receiving an A grade in every student category, thus meaning that UR increased or continued all their student sustainability efforts.
Students have worked hard to create and implement more initiatives and programs to better the environment and the UR campus. The Students’ Association (SA) has played their part in these sustainability efforts by decreasing printing prices and advocating for more recycling bins and green catering options. Future SA plans include incorporating the Rochester community into the UR’s sustainability efforts.
“One project I am particularly excited for is working with Monroe County to see how they can improve their compost capabilities,” SA President and junior Scott Strenger said. “[This way] we can offer more compostable products on campus such as those that you see in Hillside Café. Currently UR has maxed out Monroe County’s compost capabilities.”
Despite these efforts, members of Grassroots believes that the future of sustainability lies beyond projects done on campus. Instead, they believe that the success of UR’s sustainability lies within the endowment of UR students. More specifically, Grassroots has been extremely supportive of Students for a Democratic Society and other groups involved in a peaceful and socially responsible investment campaign.
“[These efforts] will have the biggest impact on sustainability,” Grassroots Co-President and junior Edith Hanson said. “If we are able to get the administration to agree to avoid investing in or using voter proxy, [then we can] change the policies of corporations such as Monsanto and oil companies, which have very negative impacts on the environment.”
UR experienced slightly less success in the Administration and Shareholder Engagement categories, receiving letter grades of a B and a C, respectively. Still, both were either the same as or an improvement over last year’s results. With regard to administration, the work of the UR Council on Sustainability was one of the greater contributing factors to the heightened grade.
“We can and do act as a catalyst for sustainability initiatives,” Provost Administrator Carol Shuherk said. “The Council spawned three working groups last year: one focused on operations, another on communications and the third on exploring the best candidates for new initiatives.”
These operation groups have assisted with outdoor recycling and launched a website that provides information on sustainability initiatives called UR Sustainable.
Recycling is another area that the administration has addressed in terms of sustainability. According to Co-chair of the Sustainability Council and Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the University Ronald Paprocki, the council has hired a full-time recycling coordinator to the council’s staff.
Furthermore, all current construction projects are now recycling their materials and existing buildings are conserving water and implementing lighting improvements.
Despite these efforts, the fact remains that administration received generally lower grades than the student-run initiatives did.
“We suspect we received a B in administration because we do not employ a full time ‘sustainability coordinator’ or have a physical place designated as the sustainability ‘office’ or ‘institute,’” Shuherk said.
Paprocki agreed with Shuherk’s statements and further attributed the structure of UR’s sustainability efforts as a reason for the lower grade.
“At UR, we favor using the existing structures and bringing people together on the council rather than creating a separate sustainability office,” Paprocki said.
Although sustainability has become a prominent issue on campus among many students and faculty members, the overall grade given by the sustainability report card may be somewhat attributed to the fact that the College Sustainability Report does not carry out its own investigations, but rather relies on internal reporting.
“It is important to understand that the Green Report Card is self-reported,” Hanson said. “In all honesty, the UR [may not have] deserved an A-minus and [we] would not be surprised if many of the other schools [that] also increased dramatically also exaggerated their reports.”
Berkowitz is a member of the class of 2012.