Higher Education Gets Green Report Card

Reader Contribution by Aly Van Dyke

Grades of the environmental efforts of 300 colleges and universities can be found at a new, interactive Web site, which shows data from the College Sustainability Report Card of 2009. The report card is produced by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Cambridge.

The site, which was launched today, provides detailed profiles for each school. The profiles contain grades for nine categories that combine for a composite grade, as well as detailed explanations for why each grade was given.

I poked around on the site and found it hard to tear myself away. The site lets you compare colleges side-by-side and search for different programs, along with their locations. There also are ideas on how different people can help universities become more sustainable. The report cards are extensive, and the site is easy to navigate. I’d encourage you to check it out.

Here are some facts taken from the press release and the Web site:

  • Two-thirds of the 300 colleges improved their scores from last year.
  • The highest overall grade was A-. Fifteen colleges received this grade.
  • The average score was C+, meaning 75 percent of the colleges earned Bs or Cs.
  • Only four colleges received Fs.
  • Combined, these colleges have endowments reaching almost $400 billion.

A recent poll conducted by the Princeton Review showed that a majority of high school students consider a school’s commitment toward sustainability and environmentalism when deciding which school they will attend. Obviously, students are thinking about these issues, and I think these report cards possess an immense potential to influence enrollment in the schools, which would even push schools to expand their environmental programs to attract more students.

I also think it’s great schools are being held to some degree of accountability for their environmental programs. Maybe with the increased attention, schools will start thinking of new, inventive ways to become a little greener.

If you did visit the site and found something encouraging, upsetting or anywhere in between, I’d really like to read your comments. I hope you enjoy the site as much as I did.