Wesleyan, along with 25 other colleges, received an overall grade of A- in the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card released on Oct. 7 in recognition of the University’s strong commitment to sustainability. This grade—the highest grade awarded this year—is an improvement from last year’s B+.
Of the nine categories considered, the University improved its scores in the “Administration,” “Climate Change & Energy,” and “Transportation” categories, and it was the only NESCAC school to be recognized as both a “Campus Sustainability Leader” and an “Endowment Sustainability Leader.” The only categories in which the University received letter grades of B’s rather than A’s were “Transportation,” “Green Building,” and “Student Involvement.”
“I think it’s really exciting that we got graded so well this year, and it’s really important that we keep up our efforts,” said Anne Rosenthal ’10, Co-Coordinator of the student-run Environmental Organizers Network (EON).
The Report Card, which can be found on www.GreenReportCard.org, is an annual review published by the Sustainability Endowments Institute, a nonprofit organization founded as a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
The 2010 report evaluated 332 public and private colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Grades were determined by awarding points to schools based on their efforts in 48 indicator areas. Information was gathered by examining public documentation and school surveys answered by school administrators.
The report commended the University’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, which aim to decrease emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The report also recognized the completion of the construction of the Cogeneration power plant and the work of the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES), composed of University students, faculty and staff, in creating a Campus Climate Action Plan.
“As a practice, Wesleyan does not pay much heed to the various surveys and ‘report cards’ that come and go for higher education institutions,” said Director of Media Relations David Pesci in an e-mail to The Argus. “However, it’s always nice when people notice all the hard work that’s been going on here in a variety of areas.”
EON Co-Coordinators Rosenthal and Josh Levine ’12 disagreed with Pesci about the importance of the Report Card, explaining that it could raise the University’s appeal to prospective students.
Wesleyan received straight A’s in categories relating to its endowment transparency and investment in sustainable projects. The report commended the University’s investment in renewable energy funds and the existence of an advisory committee of students, faculty, alumni and staff, which provides proxy-voting recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
The University is taking action to improve sustainability in the lower-scoring categories, which may raise next year’s scores.
Improving transportation on and off campus has been a major goal this year for the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), EON, and SAGES. Recent eco-friendly transportation initiatives have included purchases of more fuel-efficient vehicles, the Ride Board project, and the approval of a Zipcar program.
“I would say if things go as planned, we’ll definitely get an A in that section next time around,” Levine said.
The “Green Building” section of the report considers Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status for campus buildings. The University is currently seeking LEED Gold certification for the Allbritton Center. Connecticut state law requires that new construction projects costing over $5 million and renovation projects costing over $2 million meet at least LEED Silver standards.
“We have changed many of our contracts to ensure vendors are more sustainable and regularly check up on construction activities to ensure compliance,” said Director of Environmental Health, Safety, and Sustainability William Nelligan in an e-mail to The Argus.
With the changes that EON is making this year, including reorganizing its structure and schedule, the University’s rating in the student involvement category may also increase next year.
“We’re really stepping our game up to make sure that Wesleyan is a leader not only by administrative measures but by the amount of students involved, and how involved they are,” Levine said.
Through student and administrative environmental initiatives such as these, the University aims to continue its commitment to sustainability.
“We firmly believe that the more appropriate sustainable practices we can implement at Wesleyan, the more efficient and effective we can be as an educational institution, and the better we can contribute as member of our community,” Pesci said.