Citing improvements in transportation, student involvement and administrative policies, the nonprofit Sustainable Endowments Institute gave the University of Minnesota an A- on the College Sustainability Report Card 2010.
“Last year the University earned a B+, which is also an impressive grade. But this year, I think one of the most impressive steps the University has taken is it’s recently officially committed to reducing its energy consumption … to 5 percent below 2008 levels by 2010,” said Susan Paykin, a spokeswoman for the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
The University was one of 26 institutions to receive an A- and is listed as an “Overall Sustainability Leader.” Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and Macalester College in St. Paul received the same grade and are included in the category as well. Macalester moved up from a B+ in 2009.
“We hadn’t fully strategically looked at sustainability and where our priorities as an institution were going to be, so … my hypothesis would be that we moved up because we’ve done a lot more planning than we used to,” said Suzanne Savanick Hansen, sustainability manager at Macalester College.
The case at the University is similar.
“I think what you’re seeing with this grade is an indication of some of our work to institutionalize sustainability,” said Amy Short, the University’s sustainability coordinator.
Short cited the University’s bike share program, which will be implemented in fall 2010 as one of the reasons for the high score.
“Our Sustainability Goals and Outcomes Committee worked over the last year in setting goals and trying to have a common purpose and focus all of these individual efforts and trying to really integrate that into our mission,” Short said.
Macalester features an organization called Mac Bike that rents and repairs bicycles and recently opened a LEED-certified building, as well.
The universities with the 300 largest endowments, as well as 32 others that applied to be part of the survey, are included in the results by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
“We’re an organization that’s engaged in research to promote sustainability not only in campus operations but also in endowment practices,” Paykin said.
The institute judges universities on nine different categories, including administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement.
The climate change and energy category looks at school’s commitments to carbon emission reductions — something the University has scored poorly on in the past.
While college administrators acknowledge that the report card is far from perfect, the institute has made significant changes during the evolution of the program.
“Their methodology was a little flawed … when they started doing it a number of years ago, but they’re getting better now at their data collection,” Savanick Hansen said.
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