Case Western Reserve University improved its sustainability grade to a respectable "B-" on the Rockefeller College Sustainability Report Card 2009. The report card, released today by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, evaluates campus and endowment sustainability policies at 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.
This is the third annual edition of the report card. This is the highest grade the university has received so far. The first year the university earned a "C+", the second year a "C."
Linda Robson, Finance & Administration Fellow for Energy Studies at Case Western Reserve, said there are probably several reasons the university earned a higher grade, including "President Snyder signing on to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. I think that improved our standings because it's a public statement in higher education that we take our responsibility seriously, and we are taking on an action plan around our role in climate change."
In addition, Robson said this year's report card included a more comprehensive ranking. For instance, "transportation is a new area on the report card, and we did well," she explained. The university provided a baseline assessment of its sustainability practices, as well as information in areas such as energy consumption, recycling rates, dining services and student involvement.
According to the institute, the report's goal is to provide accessible information so that schools may learn from each other's experiences, thereby fostering more effective sustainability policies. The report assesses 43 indicators, from green building initiatives to recycling programs to endowment investment policies, and uses an "A" to "F" letter-grading system to evaluate performance.
Robson noted areas of significant sustainability improvements, including:
Robson said there are some areas on the report card with room for improvement. The campus did not earn good grades in two categories out of nine overall because as a private university, the institution did not provide data in some areas. However, Robson explained that "these aren't sustainability areas that are 'on the ground.' The areas of traditional campus sustainability, I feel great about."
Robson also said that the report card compares all types of higher education institutions, which people have to keep in mind. "We're all different schools. We're a very unique school because of our research focus, IT, etc. We have a very high power density. Our institutional areas of strength are big energy consumers. Perhaps this is also where we can find more opportunities. Maybe our best minds can join together on reducing our energy consumption and therein, our greenhouse gas emissions."
Overall, Robson said the "B-" grade is about more than just best practices from a few people or departments. Instead, "this is a reflection of what the entire university has done together. This improved grade is a reflection on what's being done on campus overall."
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