NU ranks poorly in green colleges survey

Nisha Chandran

Despite a huge push to create a more environmentally-friendly campus, Northwestern didn’t make the grade this year. According to the annual College Sustainability Report Card, NU’s grade rose only to a B- from a C last year. This score was tied with Purdue University, University of Illinois and Indiana University-Bloomington for the second-lowest grade in the Big Ten.

Released Oct. 7, the College Sustainability Report Card is run by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a three-year-old nonprofit organization. The report is the first private evaluation of more than 300 universities and colleges nationwide, and it’s catching on: Organizations such as the Princeton Review are now including a sustainability category in their school evaluations, and the issue is growing as criteria for prospective students.

Although a B- may not score Dean’s List – Williams College, where President Morton O. Schapiro previously served as president, scored an A- – positive evaluations of NU’s sustainability initiative were included in the report. NU’s food service and dining hall changes, such as going “tray-less” were commended in effort to reduce waste.

“With a tray, you can just keep piling things on even though chances are you aren’t going to eat all of it,” said Sam Eckland, co-chair of Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, of the “tray-less” movement. “But if you have to juggle all your plates or get up to get another dish, it really makes you think twice about getting food which then reduces waste.”

Eckland, a Weinberg senior, said although the improvement may be small, it is important to recognize nonetheless.

Prof. Mark Ratner, co-director of NU’s Initiative for Sustainability and Energy, explained that the group was created only a year ago and that any improvement during this start-up year is remarkable. Now, he said, students are at the forefront of leading each new development on campus, and this was recognized by the Bienen administration and continues to be an issue for Schapiro’s administration.

Ratner questioned the evaluation criteria used for the report and highlighted the importance of measurements produced by NU through ISEN. He added that he hopes NU produces more detailed statistics regarding progress in energy and sustainability.”It’s great that this thing exists,” Ratner said.

The release of the report card has raised some concerns for students.

“This is something we definitely need to fix,” said Tommy Smithburg, vice president of Associated Student Government and a Weinberg senior. “But now, most importantly, we have velocity – as we can see from the accomplishments over the last year.”

Smithburg added that research and preparation is crucial now on college campuses.”Northwestern has a slew of projects ready that are capital intensive,” he said. “When we do get the money, we are ready to go.”

Eckland added that the creation of a sustainability director is crucial in centralizing and coordinating the efforts across student groups, and to reach the NU administration more effectively.

“There is no reason we should be tied for second to last place of the schools in the Big Ten,” he said.

Eckland also said the release of these nationally published reviews calls even more attention to the SustaiNU proposal SEED will present to Schapiro this week. Among the strongest points of the proposal is SEED’s push for a full-time sustainability director to achieve top-down support from the administration.

“I love this school – we are so great at so many things,” Eckland said. “But what the sustainability report card did was throw up a red flag. As great as we are in so many respects, we are not so great here.”

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