UR received a lowered grade in the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card compared to its 2009 sustainability grade, dropping from a B- to C+. Of the nine categories that were evaluated, Green Building, Transportation and Endowment Transparency were downgraded while Student Involvement received a higher grade.
The College Sustainability Report Card evaluates environmental sustainability efforts at 332 schools in the United States and Canada. It surveys administrators and student organizations that correspond to sustainability efforts. According to Greenreportcard.org, the organization’s methodology includes giving schools credit for select sustainability initiatives and extra credit for innovation and excellence in certain areas.
Schools with high marks on the Report Card reported an array of initiatives, such as pledging to be carbon-neutral by 2020. Compared to its two A’s in Food and Recycling and Investment Priorities, green building represented UR’s biggest drop (from a B to a D). UR’s C+ overall grade was below the B- or better than 53% of the schools were rated.
One proposed cause for UR’s lower overall grade is the limitation of credited projects. Grassroots co-president and junior Liesel Schwarz noted that some of their efforts might not be considered relevant by the grading method.
‘I think our university does a lot,” Schwarz said. ‘And some of them were not necessarily recognized in the report card for one reason or another.”
Schwarz gave examples of some of the efforts that she believes might not be recognized, such as cogeneration a process that converts steam to energy, a process that not a lot of colleges use.
Schwarz also added that an incomplete input might also be one of the reasons.
‘At the time I filled out the survey, I wasn’t quite clear what’s it for,” she said. ‘I think one of the ways to improve our grade is to simply report all the things that we do. I think we deserve a much higher grade than we got.”
Students’ Association president and senior Eric Weissmann expressed uncertainty in regards to thegrading methodology. He went on to stress that the University has improved its sustainability efforts, regardless of the grade it received.
‘I don’t quite understand the system that they are using,” he said. ‘The numbers and the indicators they are using. They don’t line up… we care more about been effective in our sustainable methods, than we do about getting credits for them.”
‘I can say with absolute certainty that we are doing better this year in regard to sustainability than we were a year ago regardless of what the grade says. And that is what matters most to continue to enhance our sustainability efforts.”
Weissmann added that there has been an array of efforts to improve the sustainability on UR’s campus, including the establishment of an SA sustainability coordinator and the Students’ Sustainability Council.
For long-term sustainability goals, he hopes to usher in energy efficiency.
‘Sustainability is deeply rooted in the University’s master plan,” he said. ‘The goal is to be a more sustainable campus, to be more energy efficient, to use more local food and local products, to involve students more, to increase student research and to increase the academic involvement.
‘The goal is to improve sustainability, period.”
Shao is a member of the class of 2010.