University improves campus sustainability grade
November 18, 2010
UW-River Falls improved its grade from a B minus last year to an A minus this year on the on the College Sustainability Report Card.
The report is designed to recognize colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada that are leaders in sustainability, according to the Campus Sustainability Report Card website. Participants are evaluated in several key areas such as energy, recycling and student involvement. Schools are then able to learn from each other and work towards improving their own sustainability practices.
Director of Facilities Management Michael Stifter said that he believes the report is a good indicator of the sustainability of a campus because the data gathered is thorough and reveals areas that need more improvement.
UW-Madison and U of M-Twin Cities were two of only seven schools that received A’s this year. Approximately 300 schools participated.
Areas where UWRF received A’s were administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, and student involvement. Transportation was the area that UWRF scored the lowest with a C.
“[Transportation] presents one of our greatest challenges but also opportunities,” said Director of Facilities Management Michael Stifter. “Public transit is the key to so many of the big campuses like the U of M and Madison getting A’s.”
Director of the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development Kelly Cain said opportunities for improving transportation include a campus wide bicycle sharing plan and providing incentives for green travel such as preferred parking for electric or hybrid cars.
“The biggest and easiest leap we could make would probably be for a campus system for carpooling in all aspects of both students, faculty and staff travel,” Cain said.
Food, recycling and student involvement were areas UWRF excelled in.
Currently, Dining Services spends 10.5 percent of its food budget on local products according to data submitted to the College Sustainability Report Card.
While campus lab farms already have a composting program for animal and other waste, Cain said Dining Services will be releasing a major proposal for composting food waste within the next few weeks.
Johnson Hall resident Tyler Soutter said he is really impressed with some of the university’s sustainability efforts, particularly the rainwater collection system and dual flush toilets in the University Center.
The university has reduced its per capita water consumption by 25 percent since 2005 due in part to the dual flush toilets, high-efficiency laundry machines, and weather-informed irrigation systems.
Despite the incredible steps UWRF is taking to improve its sustainability, Cain said there is more to it.
“Most fundamentally, it is the daily decisions and practices of each of us individually that truly makes the most difference in minimizing our footprint for energy, water, food, etc.,” he said.
The Residence Life Energy Conservation Contest is an ongoing competition between the halls to see who can conserve the most steam, water and electricity. At the end of the year, a prize of $250 is awarded to the wining hall in each category.
Soutter said that while he has heard discussion about which hall is winning and which is losing, he has not heard of anyone taking steps to change their behavior to conserve more.
“I think at the beginning of the year it is really promoted but then it’s forgotten about,” said Grimm resident Jade Kaczmarski.
And when it comes to recycling, Kaczmarski said in the past she and her roommate had become careless and threw a lot of recycling away in the trash.
Soutter said he felt a more aggressive promotional campaign reminding the students to conserve would help even if it was as simple as a small sign to tell students to turn off the lights when they leave the room.
The large jump in score from a B minus to an A minus is something Cain said is hard not to be proud of and has hope for further improvement.
“If we continue to see the major progress we anticipate in our current efforts around curriculum, energy, food, transportation and other areas, I am quite confident that we can get to the A category,” he said.