U gets straight A’s in sustainability

The University’s “report card” was determined from nine categories.

Ashley Bray

The University of Minnesota is the only school in the Big Ten to earn straight AâÄôs on its sustainability report card from the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

The University was also one of only three universities in the nation to hit a 4.0 grade point average and was named one of seven top sustainability leaders. More than 300 colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada were evaluated.

“ItâÄôs exciting to have straight AâÄôs,” Amy Short, the UniversityâÄôs director of sustainability, said. “The report card reflects the work of many people âĦ itâÄôs nice to have recognition for their work.”

Schools were evaluated in nine categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement.

The University improved its overall grade of A- from the 2010 survey. On that report card, the University received a C grade in the “green building” category, a B in the “student involvement” category and a B in “endowment transparency.” Each of those grades improved to AâÄôs in 2011.

Short said the University believed it should have received an A in the student involvement category last year. Methodology may have played a role in that decision.

According to SEI, one of the methods used to compile data is to distribute surveys.

“I think they just did a better job of surveying student groups [in 2011],” Short said.

The report card cites 16 sustainability-themed student groups, a student-run organic farm and the option of living in a sustainability-themed hallway as reasons for
the A grade.

Receiving straight AâÄôs doesnâÄôt mean the University will be slacking off this year. While the report card provides the University with motivation to continue to move forward, sustainability policies put in place by the Board of Regents are a top priority for the future, Short said.

“We are working on our own performance measures as we implement the Board of Regents Policy on Sustainability and Energy Efficiency,” she said. “The policy sets a system-wide approach that is unique.”

Short said involvement between students, faculty and alumni will be important for the University to continue to be a sustainability leader.

The only other college in Minnesota listed as having the best overall grades is Carleton College in Northfield.