Environmental Column: Is Colgate Making the Grade?

The 2010 College Sustainability Report Card has been published and Colgate scored a “B-” grade. The report card surveyed over three hundred North American schools and assessed each one with regard to nine criteria: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement. The College Sustainability Report Card prides itself on being the only independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities in the United States and Canada and is generally regarded as a valuable source of comparison for the “greenness” of schools. The grade is based on both the information made publically available by the universities themselves, as well as information gathered through several in-depth evaluative surveys that address the nine criteria from multiple viewpoints. 

The B- grade that Colgate received is quite an improvement from the D+ that the University was awarded last year. The grade itself is an average of the scores given for each of the nine criteria. According to the report card, Colgate’s sustainability strengths lie within student involvement and transportation. For both of these two categories the institution received A grades. The report highlights the many student initiatives such as composting, bottled water reduction, the Green Bikes program and the Energy Olympics as factors contributing to the high level of student involvement in sustainability. Also mentioned were the Campus Ecology Group, which enables the flow of sustainability information between students, faculty and staff as well as the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Environmental Policy Coordinator position currently held by senior Shae Frydenlund.

As for transportation, Colgate is currently researching the possibility of using biofuel made from waste oil coming from the dining halls to power the Cruisers.  This initiative coupled with the bike sharing program, the online ride board and the available public transportation options gave Colgate its second A.

Colgate racked up two Bs for the administration and the food and recycling criteria. The administration scored points for employing a full-time Sustainability Coordinator (John Pumilio), administering a Sustainability Council that reports directly to the president and purchasing EnergyStar utilities for campus use. In the food and recycling category, points were attributed to the increase in local and organic foods in dining halls, the sale of fair trade coffee on campus, discounts for the use of reusable bottles and mugs and donations of perishables to charitable organizations. 

Colgate received its lowest grades in the climate change and energy, endowment transparency, investment priorities, and green building categories where it scored three Cs and a D respectively. These are perhaps the areas that Colgate should focus on in the future to improve its overall sustainability. The full results, survey data and summaries for Colgate’s Sustainability Report Card can be viewed online at www.greenreportcard.org.