By Paul Ruskin, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State has been named a national Campus Sustainability Leader and increased it’s grade in a national survey of green schools. Penn State received a B+ rating in the Green Report Card survey conducted by the Sustainability Endowments Institute. The College Sustainability Report Card is an independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities across North America. Penn State’s B+ rating is up from last year’s B rating.
The increase is due to the University’s continuing focus on green house gas reduction and the activities of the newly formed Campus Sustainability Office (CSO). Erik Foley, CSO director, said, “This survey is primarily focused on operations, student involvement and endowment. It is a valuable recognition of Penn State’s green accomplishments and a reminder of what yet needs to be done.”
Penn State scored an A in the areas of administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, investment priorities, and green buildings. Student involvement and transportation received a B rating. Endowment transparency and shareholder engagement did less well and were also the lowest scoring areas for most colleges and universities surveyed. This year’s report compared 322 colleges and universities using 52 indicators, from green building initiatives to recycling programs to endowment investment policies, and uses an A to F letter-grading system to evaluate performance. The average rating for institutions in the Big Ten this year was B.
The Green Report Card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leading by example on sustainability issues. The aim is to provide accessible information so that schools may learn from each other’s experiences, thereby fostering more effective sustainability policies. Penn State has a long record of environmental activity including decades of recycling and energy efficiency initiatives.
The University has made remarkable progress toward achieving sustainability. It has announced a campus-wide goal of cutting green house gas emissions by 17.5 percent in 2012 and already has reached 15 percent. Penn State has reduced its electricity consumption by 7 percent, from the high in 2005, while adding over a million square feet of new building space. Annually the University avoids more than $10 million in energy costs thanks to the efforts of the Office of Physical Plant and individual efforts across our campuses. Penn State’s 57 percent recycling rate soars above what the EPA estimates as the national average of 35 percent.
Penn State has an array of sustainability efforts in operations, outreach, teaching, research and student affairs. The Campus Sustainability Office currently is supporting a quickly growing network of employee-based Green Teams in many university units and has launched a new Student Eco-Rep Program in the residence halls. Outreach reaches landowners, businesses and communities with many services and programs. The Center for Sustainability is advancing the teaching of sustainability and innovative applied research programs in green building, solar power and smart grids. The Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE) coordinates energy and environmental research, bringing together over 500 faculty, staff and students. Student Affairs is developing its own sustainability plan with sustainability learning outcomes for all Penn State students.
To see a video covering Penn State’s current sustainability efforts and the University’s drive to expand them, visit here online.