Picking a college can be a tough choice. You have to weigh the various pros and cons of each school to make the best decision possible. The usual metrics involved in this process pertain to things like job placement after graduation, whether or not the school has your field of study and how rigorous the acceptance standards are. It is also important to gauge whether a college walks the talk when it comes to sustainability.
A school’s sustainability is not just a measure of how low their carbon footprint is. It can also indicate how forward-thinking the university is and if the faculty and staff share the same morals and priorities as you do. One great indicator of university sustainability is the College Sustainability Report Card.
What is the College Sustainability Report Card?
The College Sustainability Report Card was a project that ran from 2007 to 2011. The Report Card’s goal was to be a resource for college students and the public at large to evaluate over 300 schools based on how green-minded their policies and practices are.
For high school students and their parents, these grades can be used as a reference so they can find sustainable colleges. Students currently enrolled at a university can use the Sustainability Report Card to see how their school stacks up to the competition when it comes to utilizing eco-friendly resources like eTextbooks and many more. School trustees and the public at large can use this as a way to see what changes need to be made and if the school’s resources are being used responsibly.
The methodology of the College Sustainability Report Card was based upon four surveys to be completed by faculty and staff of participating universities. These surveys gathered information on “campus operations, dining services, endowment investment practices and student activities.” The Sustainable Endowments Institute, the group responsible for the Sustainability Report Card, sent these surveys to contacts at participant universities who would then disperse them to the proper departments and then send them back in so the Institute could compile the results.
Schools That Top the Sustainability Charts
Over the years that the Sustainability Report Card was administered, over half the schools that participated received a grade of “B” or better. Twenty-six schools achieved an “Overall College Sustainability Leader” status; which required getting an A- or greater grade in all of the categories examined. Some of the tops leaders include Harvard, University of Colorado, and University of Minnesota. The categories on which all colleges were judged include: Administration, Transportation, Energy Use, Shareholder Engagement, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, Recycling, Green Building, and Student Involvement.
How Sustainable is Your School?
To find out how sustainable your school is, check out the Report Card’s Schools Page. Schools are listed alphabetically and indicate how their ranking changed over the previous year. These schools are located throughout the United States and Canada, so you can see how sustainability practices differ throughout the northern continent.
If your school is not included in the rankings, you can use the Sustainability Endowment Institute’s rankings mentioned above to gauge for yourself how sustainable your school or a school you wish to attend is.
Contact some of the departments at the university and ask them questions about their sustainability practices. Does the dining hall use as many recyclable and biodegradable materials as possible? Has the administration made significant efforts to go paperless, use e-Textbooks and to reduce energy usage? Do the groundskeepers use environmentally-friendly practices? How engaged are students and faculty in sustainability efforts?
Questions like these can help you figure out if sustainability is a priority at your prospective university and may serve as a wonderful networking opportunity to meet people around campus.
Even though the College Sustainability Report Card has not been issued since 2011, thankfully there are new, different, rankings coming out every day, including Princeton Review’s Green Colleges Ranking. You can find many more resources like these to help you make the best decision for your college future.