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UConn's green campus efforts recognized

by Richard Veilleux - October 14, 2008


UConn is among the top 20 public universities in the nation in its efforts to create an environmentally sustainable campus, according to a ‘report card’ issued by the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI).

The University earned a B for work completed between July 2007 and September 2008.

UConn’s environmental standing in SEI’s 2008-2009 Green Campus Report Card improved by a full letter grade over last year’s report. The improvement is attributed to policy decisions, creative thinking, and student involvement in campus sustainability initiatives.

UConn was one of only 20 public universities to receive a B or better.

Its grades improved in 5 of 8 categories compared to last year’s report, while holding steady in the other three categories, including an A in the Green Building category and a B in Transportation.

The University also received an A in a new category introduced this year, Student Involvement. For its efforts, UConn earned SEI’s classification of Campus Sustainability Leader.

“It’s always welcome news when we’re listed among the very best universities in the nation,” says University President Michael J. Hogan.

“Our faculty, staff, and students have worked hard to be environmentally responsible, and we’re committed to continuing to improve our standing, increasing our efforts as we work to become carbon neutral by 2050.”

The report card, which rates the 300 universities with the largest endowments, is in its third year. According to the SEI, the goal of the report is to provide easily accessible information so universities can learn from what others are doing, helping foster more effective sustainability policies.

The report assesses 43 factors, from green building initiatives to recycling programs to endowment investment policies. They use an A to F grading system.

“Making a commitment to sustainability, ranging from local food sourcing to renewable energy investments, is no longer a priority of environmentalists only,” says Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

“Such innovations are capturing the attention of everyone, from college trustees to admissions applicants.”


Since the report was issued, UConn has intensified its efforts to lessen its carbon footprint by forming several new workgroups which, as part of the president’s Climate Action Task Force, will soon be exploring issues and developing action plans on the topics of energy, transportation, sustainable development, recycling, and environmental literacy.

The University has also issued guidelines for working green on campus, opened a 64-acre environmental education park with nature trails adjacent to the former landfill, and removed trays from the dining halls in order to reduce food waste.

Discussions also have begun with the UConn Foundation to develop programs that will improve its grades.

While the UConn Foundation received higher grades in the new report card in two of three categories compared to last year, it received a failing grade in shareholder engagement because most of the Foundation’s endowment is invested in mutual funds, preventing managers from investing in renewable energy or other green funds. This is a problem experienced by many universities.

Overall, the Institute praised UConn for its green building policies, student involvement, administrative efforts (signing the American College & Universities Presidents Climate Commitment, and having an Office of Environmental Policy with senior level management and other staff leading these efforts), and a notable environmental ethic in Dining Services, which buys locally grown produce and dairy products and raises bees for honey production.

“It’s a good report card, and encouraging to be categorized as a leader among our peer institutions,” says Richard Miller, director of environmental policy. “UConn has made a strong commitment to environmental sustainability, reinforced especially by President Hogan and reflected in our new academic plan.

“This report card recognizes the significant strides we’ve made,” Miller adds, “and hopefully will inspire us to strive for an even better rating next year – to be a laboratory for low-impact development and an example of responsible growth by conserving energy and water, reducing and recycling our waste, and protecting natural resources for future generations.”

The report can be viewed at http://www.greenreportcard.org


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