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    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

The reviews are in
July 30, 2008 - 7:34pm

Yesterday, the 2009 edition of Princeton Review's 368 Best Colleges became available. For the first time, a major college guide includes "green scores" -- ratings on campus sustainability. The minimum score is a 60, the maximum a 99. (Schools which didn't respond to the Review's survey get a starred 60.)

To see how your school did, go to the review's website. If you don't have an account there, you'll have to create one, but it's free. Then go to the "college" tab and search for your school. Within the school's information, and select "Campus Life/Facilities". The "Green Rating" is listed both under "Campus Life" and under "Key Statistics".

In answer to a question on the Green Schools listserv, Dave Newport (sustainability maven at the University of Colorado - Boulder) provided the following information:

The Princeton Review calculated the Green Rating scores based on institutional data it obtained from the colleges during the 2007-08 academic year in response to ten questions that asked:

1) The percentage of food expenditures that goes toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food

2) Whether the school offers programs including free bus passes, universal access transit passes, bike sharing/renting, car sharing, carpool parking, vanpooling or guaranteed rides home to encourage alternatives to single-passenger automobile use for students

3) Whether the school has a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus

4) Whether new buildings are required to be LEED (environmental certification of equipment/appliances) Silver certified or comparable

5) The school's overall waste diversion rate

6) Whether the school has an environmental studies major, minor or concentration

7) Whether the school has an "environmental literacy" requirement.

8) Whether the school has produced a publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventory and adopted a climate action plan consistent with 80 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 targets

9) What percentage of the school's energy consumption, including heading/cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable sources (this definition included "green tags" but not nuclear or large scale hydro power)

10) Whether the school employs a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer.

So, I looked up Greenback, and our score was neither as good as I'd hoped nor as bad as I'd feared. Probably pretty realistic on a scale of 90-99 = A, 80-89 = B, etc. Anybody get a number (other than 60 with an asterisk) that they feel is entirely unreasonable?

Of more long-term interest, the very fact that ratings get published is going to change how campuses think about sustainability. I've heard that US News will also be including some sort of sustainability rating in their influential rankings, but I don't have confirmation on that. For the sake of argument, though, let's presume it's true.

Lots of prospective students ask about what Greenback is doing to promote sustainability. And lots of prospective students (and/or their parents) consult the major college guides.

Rankings are the publications universities love to disparage, but rush to reference when it's to their advantage. And I know that many higher ed administrators consider rankings in how they design and conduct development campaigns, recruitment, financial aid and the like.

So the question is -- how do you think this will change things? Will "green ratings" matter?


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