University scores perfect on sustainability rating

Among 832 schools, the University received a perfect score on Princeton Review’s sustainability rating, earning it a spot on the Green Honor Roll for 2014 and making it one of 22 colleges on the list.

The project, which is currently in its sixth year, collected data from more than 800 schools through its 2012-13 surveys and ranked each college’s environmental sustainability. The schools were evaluated with many criteria, including waste practices, sources of dining hall food, methods of transportation and student groups.

Stephanie Lage, assistant director of the Center for a Sustainable Environment, said the University’s inclusion in the honor roll could be attributed to the progress that has been made toward its sustainability goals.

Upcoming goals for the Climate Action Plan are to achieve a 20 percent water use reduction in 2015 and a 30 percent energy use reduction by fiscal year 2020.

The University conserves water throughout campus buildings with low-flow faucets and by fixing leaks, Lage said.

Retrocommissioning provides an in-depth analysis of a building’s HVAC, ventilation and air conditioning systems in order to reach optimal energy conservation, sustainability and comfort. This division has helped to provide an average decrease in energy use by 27 percent in more than 40 buildings on campus, said Steve Breitwieser, media communications specialist for Facilities and Services.

“There’s just a lot occurring, and a lot is being undertaken to meet the target goals,” he said.

Breitwieser noted that there are other energy conservation initiatives in addition to retrocommissioning, which include energy performance contracting, energy grant funding, a new energy management control center and others that aid in the reduction of energy consumption at the University.

“I think it is a general increasing awareness that we have an energy dashboard that students can take a look at and can be aware of the different types of energy consumption in the facilities they’re in,” Breitwieser said.

The University also ensures sustainability through the dining services on campus, both through University and certified public housing.

Sue Dawson, food service director at Hendrick House, discussed how locally grown food plays a role in the residence hall’s sustainability efforts. At Hendrick House, there is a rooftop garden where herbs, cherry tomatoes, basil and rosemary are grown and are used in “Farm-to-Table” meals.

Growing food locally helps fulfill sustainability goals by reducing emissions from the various transportation methods required to ship non-local foods, according to the sustainability research organization Worldwatch Institute.

Dawson said there are more local food providers than ever before, and these are growing wider varieties of food over different time periods. She said she believes that this signifies a growing trend of more people wanting locally grown food, which supports sustainability.

“I think it says our community is supportive of it. Even though we’re typically not University owned, we are working towards the same goals,” she said. “And that’s an important community role to be playing.”

Lage said she thinks the University is achieving its sustainability goals because of the efforts of everyone on campus.

“I think that people care, and they do their part by not overtaxing the system,” she said. “They turn off their lights, their computers when they come home. And then there’s transportation — people are riding their bikes more often or walking, taking the MTD, and that’s part of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Edward can be reached at [email protected]