St. John’s improves grade on sustainibility report card

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St. John’s improved its Green Report Card grade this year. Receiving an overall rating of B-, the University was rated in categories such as food and recycling, green building, and the involvement of students, administrators and shareholders in promoting green initiatives.

The College Sustainability 2010 Report Card is released annually by the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI). St. John’s received a C+ on the 2009 report card and a C- on the 2008 report card. SEI is a non- profit organization founded in 2005. The institute conducts research and surveys of 322 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada for the report.

Each school’s performance is assessed based on more than 120 questions and 52 indicators in nine categories: administration, climate change and energy, endowment transparency, food and recycling, green building, investment priorities, shareholder engagement, student involvement and transportation.

This year was the first time the highest grade of A was received. Fifty- two schools have earned A grades for this year along with an additional 45 schools that have recieved A- grades.

St. John’s grades in individual categories ranged from C’s to A’s, the highest marks coming from administrative and student involvement. Student involvement is defined as the number of student groups that advocate for environmental issues on campus. Administration is rated according to its oversight of environmental initiatives on campus such as purchasing policies, efficient appliances, and eco-friendly cleaning products.

In the category of climate change and energy, the University received a B grade. Green House Gas (GHG) emissions have been reduced based on the 2005 baseline year, but still do not generate any renewable energy.

According to the Report Card, St. John’s has reduced GHG emissions by seven percent in two years. The University has committed a total of $23.5 million for energy plans to reduce green house gases to meet Bloomberg’s Mayoral Challenge of 30 percent reduction by 2017.

The lowest C grades came from transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement.

Shareholder engagement is rated based on committees formed to examine other sustainability-related resolutions rather than letting investment managers handle all the issues. According to Green Report Card’s website, approximately one in eight schools have an advisory committee on shareholder responsibility and the average grade for a school is a D.

The University owns 45 cars, trucks and carts that are used around campus. Of these, 10 are 100 percent electric and 10 are gasoline-electric hybrids.

A portion of the transportation survey asks if the school offers subsidies for the use of public transportation. The University answered no, but also said that many students utilize NYC public transportation.

In an effort to make strides towards the Clean Air Campus initiative, a partner program for New York schools, the University is hoping to promote carpooling, the director of Environmental and Energy Conservation, Tom Goldsmith said. An electronic survey will be sent out for the first time this November to faculty and administrators to move toward a car-share program.

Goldsmith has also been working with the Commuter Connection Committee about starting a survey among students to promote carpooling.

Helen Kim is a junior and commutes to campus, sometimes offering her friends rides.

“The days I drive, I will usually drop my friend off in Henley,” she said. “Carpooling is easy to do if it’s with friends, and I already do.”

Goldsmith praised the Film Club for their involvement in the recycling competition held last year. The Film Club has created four short movies so far promoting recycling on campus and is working on two more.

“Students have been putting in a lot of effort to promote environmental awareness,” Goldsmith said.

Sophomore Misbah Hyder said the variety of trash receptacles on campus are an indicator that the University is attempting to go green.

“I think they can do better, but their efforts are seen. An example would be the competition in the residence halls last semester, or even the three different types of trash receptacles all over campus,” Hyder said.

Kim said that seeing these recepticals on campus makes her believe the University is doing its part to go green.

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“I think what the school is doing is okay,” Kim said, “we have all those separate containers for recycling. It seems to work.”

Goldsmith is pleased with this year’s improvement on the grading scale.

“I think it’s a good grade for our current condition,” he said. “It reflects hard work over the last three years. To get from a C- to a B- takes alot.”

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