UI receives B- in environmental sustainabiity

By Kelly Gibbs

Making the green grade, the University receives a B-.

According to a recent press release, the Sustainable Endowments Institute issued a College Sustainability Report Card, including an independent evaluation of campus sustainability policies. The goal of the report is to encourage sustainability as a priority in colleges.

William Sullivan, professor in ACES, said there are three important efforts the University has made in order to improve sustainability.

“Examples of our progress include the University’s improved energy efficiency, which stimulates considerable energy conservation, the Campus Sustainability Council and Office of Sustainability, as well as purified University standards with regard to University projects,” Sullivan said.

The University scored highest in recognizing campus-wide green building guidelines and green building design for new and existing buildings. The facilities department standards require projects more than $5 million to be LEED Silver-certified. Buildings under this budget must comply to as many LEED standards as possible.

The report revealed the University was also strong in its accessibility to endowment investment information and shareholder voting records. This information is readily available to the public.

“We have made consistent and substantial progress in the past couple of years,” Sullivan said.

In terms of opportunities for student, faculty and alumni participation, improvements can be made. According to the report card, the University lacks in optimizing investment return and has not made any public statements about active ownership or a proxy voting policy.

“We have not been in a leadership position on sustainability,” said Bruce Branham, interim head of the Department of Natural and Environmental Science. “However, we are moving rapidly to address it.”

Nick Devonshire, spokesman for the Sustainable Endowments Institute, said he believes the University has room for improvement when considering environmental effects in a public forum.

“University of Illinois has done great things with sustainability; it would be great to see the students and administration become more vocal about sustainability effects,” Devonshire said.

The University is taking note of the shortcomings with current sustainability procedures and taking necessary action.

“The University is taking many steps to address these issues because they are serious,” Branham said.

As the University looks ahead, the Office of Sustainability will provide operational leadership to campus sustainability efforts, significantly enhancing communication and coordination across the relevant campus domains, according to the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program’s Web site.

The Office will work with colleges and other campus units, including the Environmental Council and student groups such as the Students for Environmental Concerns and the Student Sustainability Council, to develop and promote opportunities for engaging faculty and students with the critical environmental, social and economic issues of sustainability at this time and into the future.