Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, June 22, 2017

AU’s sustainability score rises

AU received a grade of B on the annual College Sustainability Report Card.

Its grade has improved every year since the report has existed. Last year it received a B-, and the year before that it received a D+.

The report was conducted by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which is a non-profit organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.

Drew Veysey, president of Eco-Sense, said a B is an accurate grade for AU’s sustainability. He has seen other schools that were much less sustainable, and likewise some that put a lot of money into sustainability.

“I think a B is actually a pretty appropriate grade,” he said. “Each year, every school is improving, so it’s all kind of relative. We probably deserve a B compared to other schools.”

The campuses that received the best overall report grades (an A- or higher) were the richest, according to the Chronicle. These included Ivy League schools, small liberal-arts colleges, and some state schools.

AU got an A in “Administration sustainability” because it recently launched the Office of Sustainability and has an Environmental Issues Project Team. Student involvement, transportation and investment priorities also received grades of A, according to the report.

AU has 11 electric vehicles and two trucks that run on biodiesel. AU also offers bike-sharing and commercial car-sharing programs. Still, Veysey said transportation needs a lot of improvement in terms of sustainability.

“A big chunk of our greenhouse gas score comes from transportation,” he said. “We were supposed to get biodiesel in the buses years ago, and it’s constantly been delayed. We need to do that.”

AU got D grades in the green building and endowment transparency categories.

“The reason why I think we got such a low score for green buildings is because other schools have hopped onto green building and put a lot [more] money into it,” Veysey said. “So it’s a relative thing.”

The College Sustainability Report Card “is the only comparative evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities,” according to greenreportcard.org. The organization sends out surveys to universities asking specific questions about sustainability plans and actions taken. It aggregates the answers to these questions, as well as other public information to arrive at its rating.

“I think its pretty good,” said Lindsay Madeira, the manager of Sustainability Programs. “It has come a long way, they used to do the entire rating based on info they could find ... Often times you would get a grade and you would have no idea where it would come from.”

AU is working to improve on some of the areas where the university scored poorly, according to Madeira. AU received a D in the “Green Building” category.

“We have a lot of buildings that we’ve applied for [Leaderships in Energy and Environmental Design] certification, we actually have 30 [in the process of registration],” Madeira said. “We went up from last year, so the fact that we’re improving is a good sign that we’re doing things better than before.”

You can reach these staff writers at nglass@theeagleonlin.com and cszold@theeagleonline.com.