AU receives B+ on College Sustainability Report Card

AU outranked all other D.C. area colleges and received its best grade ever in this year’s College Sustainability Report Card. AU received a B+ grade on its 2011 sustainability report card, released Oct. 27.

The report card, sponsored by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, assesses 322 colleges and universities based on nine categories that range from Climate Change and Energy to Green Building.

AU’s ranking has steadily improved over the last three years. AU received a D+ in 2008, a B- in 2009 and a B in 2010. "[The report] shows that we've continued to improve," said Chris O'Brien, AU’s director of sustainability. "I'm happy to show we've made progress."

AU’s ranking in individual categories of the report card also increased.

AU received a D+ in 2008 for the Green Building category. This year AU’s ranking in that category rose to a B for 2011.

The ranking for the Green Building category considers schools’ practices in constructing buildings that meet green building standards like the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, the Energy Star building labeling system and the Green Globes assessment system.

Also, schools must have 30 buildings on campus LEED-registered in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Volume Pilot program, according to the report.

AU is one of only several universities participating in the LEED Volume Pilot program, according to O'Brien. The LEED Volume Pilot program is a new program that aims to make it easier to have multiple buildings LEED certified at once.

Including the new School of International Service building, which is expected to received gold LEED certification, 31 buildings on campus are in the process of being considered for LEED certification, according to O'Brien.

AU’s A in the Climate Change and Energy category is based on the school’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions and energy use and partially on AU’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2020, according to the report. AU’s energy-conserving technologies, rooftop solar array, solar hot water system and its purchase of renewable energy wind credits were also cited.

AU improved from a B to an A in the Food and Recycling category because it spent 25 percent of its food budget on local products and buying vegetables and herbs from an on-campus garden, according to the report. In addition, 65 percent of campus waste was recycled, and AU conducted a 12-week food waste reduction campaign.

AU’s lowest score was an “F” grade in the Shareholder Engagement category. This category examines how colleges conduct shareholder proxy voting, according to the Green Report Card website. The ESI suggests schools form a shareholder responsibility group committee to advise trustees.

The College Sustainability Report Card determines its grades for school through researching publicly available information, sending surveys to appropriate school officials and student groups and assessing each school's performance on more than 120 questions across 52 indicators, according to a press release from the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

"In general, I feel like efforts that draw attention to the need to increase sustainability in college campuses are a good thing," O'Brien said.

This was the first year a grade of “A” was awarded to any school. Seven schools received this top rating including:

Brown University Dickinson College Oberlin College Pomona College University of Minnesota-Twin Cities University of Wisconsin-Madison Yale University

ascalamogna@theeagleonline.com

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