Columbia Earns Top Grade for Sustainability
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Columbia among only 15 schools nationwide to earn A-
Columbia has earned the highest grade given this year for overall sustainability efforts across college campuses nationwide. It is the only university in New York State—and among only 15 out of 300 schools nationwide—to earn an A-. The 2009 College Sustainability Report Card were compiled and produced by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
"Columbia has long been a leader in pioneering research on climate change and a source of solutions for climate adaptation both locally and globally," said President Lee C. Bollinger. "This impressive grade illustrates the commitment we have also made to setting an example of long-term environmental sustainability on our own campus and in our daily lives. I am proud of how Columbia students, faculty and staff have responded to this challenge in so many concrete ways, and I want to commend the efforts of everyone involved. We look forward to working together to become an even stronger model of environmental stewardship and energy efficiency in the years ahead."
The College Sustainability Report Card is released annually and ranks colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada based on 43 indicators in nine categories. The profiles of 300 schools were created using information gathered through independent research as well as through voluntary responses from school administrators to three surveys. In total, 290 of the 300 schools responded to at least one survey. The Report Card is the only independent sustainability evaluation of campus operations and endowment investments and is published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
The average grade for all schools surveyed came to "C+," with more than 75 percent of colleges and universities earning sustainability grades in the "B" and "C" range. Columbia University earned an A for six categories, including: administration; food & recycling; green building; student involvement; shareholder engagement; and investment priorities. Last year, Columbia scored a B+.
"We are extremely proud of our progress, and Columbia is committed to become even more sustainable in the years ahead," said Nilda Mesa, the University's assistant vice president of environmental stewardship. "The value of environmental sustainability and awareness of our responsibility to the community around us and the world at large are at the core of Columbia's culture. Our goal as a University is to put that awareness into practice."
In the past few years, Columbia University has taken significant steps in its commitment to become more environmentally sustainable. In 2006, the University established the Office of Environmental Stewardship, working across Columbia, including individual schools, student groups, and offices, to spearhead campus programs and initiatives in the field. In 2007, Columbia joined with nine other universities in the City in Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC Challenge, pledging to decrease carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2017.
Mesa attributes the higher grade to a range of initiatives and the widespread commitment of the University community. Some highlights of these efforts include:
- Columbia committed to a LEED Silver standard for its Manhattanville expansion buildings, and the overall plan is in the LEED for Neighborhood Development program. Columbia launched its first green dorm in 2007, which features a new energy-efficient boiler, efficient windows, low VOC paint, sustainably sourced flooring, and an energy monitoring system.
- Columbia has established a green roof research station, led by an interdisciplinary team of researchers, with more to come. It is the first such station in New York City and aims to provide data to develop model future green roof designs and systems across the city.
- Columbia sources 16 percent of its food purchases locally. An organic student co-op in one dining hall sells campus-grown produce. Organic, locally roasted, fair-trade coffee is served at all venues. The campus also hosts a farmers market twice a week. To-go containers are biodegradable, and a reusable mug program offers discounts to consumers.
- Columbia was the first institution of higher education to pilot the RecycleBank program, which awards students with redeemable points to be used at local and national merchants.
- Columbia's medical campus launched the first graduate-level EcoRep program nationwide. EcoReps at both campuses run Give + Go Green, a program that collects and donates items students leave behind to local charities.
- Through a unique partnership with The Doe Fund, a local nonprofit that helps provide jobs and training to recently homeless men, all waste cooking oil from undergraduate dining is picked up and delivered to a biodiesel refinery.
- Columbia established New York City's first recycling center this year for batteries, small electronic waste, textiles, books, toner cartridges and light bulbs. In its first six months 3.5 tons of textiles were collected.
- In its first year of operation, the surplus reuse program has saved over 105 tons of furniture and equipment from the landfill and repurposed them within the University and to community nonprofits, and sent 15 tons of kitchen equipment to a cooking school that provides job training in Honduras.
- Columbia Student Council and EcoReps launched the "Do It in the Dark" Energy Challenge last spring, which pitted undergraduate dorms against each other to see who could use the least energy. Tips were circulated, and results were posted online. The winners received valuable prizes, all while reducing carbon emissions.
In its local community, Columbia's Office of Environmental Stewardship, along with the Mailman School of Public Health Dean Linda Fried and other faculty representatives, sit on the Manhattan Borough President's Go Green East Harlem and Go Green Washington Heights Steering Committees, which promote sustainability in our neighborhoods working with community organizations and institutions. Columbia provides sustainability training and expertise to these committees as well as support through the Urban Design Lab. Columbia works with many community groups and institutions to provide education, research, planning and project designs and support for local environmental efforts through collaborations.
For more information about the 2009 Report Card, visit www.endowmentinstitute.org.
For more information about Columbia's sustainability efforts, please visit www.environment.columbia.edu.