St. John’s gets C+ for sustainability efforts

The University has recently received a grade of C+ on a College Sustainability 2010 Report Card 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.

Founded in 2005, the institute is a non-profit organization that engages in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices. SEI releases the College Sustainability Report Card every year as a comparative evaluation of how schools are promoting and maintaining sustainability on their campuses. For its report card, the institute conducted research and surveys of the 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada that have the largest endowments, as well as 32 other schools that applied to be included.

The grades are based on a university’s ability to meet qualifications in nine categories: administration, climate change and energy, endowment transparency, food and recycling, green building, investment priorities, shareholder engagement, student involvement and transportation.

St. John’s received grades ranging from Bs to Ds. It received its highest marks in the categories of administration, food and recycling, student involvement, transportation and shareholder engagement.

The St. John’s Sustainability Intiative (SJSI) is an example of the University’s progress in the administration category. The University created the department, which manages and enforces the University’s energy conservation policies, in January 2008.

The University received its lowest score in endowment transparency, because according to the report card, the University does not make its shareholder voting record public.

Thomas Goldsmith, the director of Environmental and Energy Conservation, said he feels that some of the grades were lower than the University deserved.

“I think we deserved a B in climate change and energy, as well as green building,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of green building things, especially in the new D’Angelo Center.”

Goldsmith added, “The climate change and energy category is the most aggressively pursued on campus so that students can know how they are helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the University.”

At the beginning of October, St. John’s was invited to present at the Renewing the Campus: Sustainability and the Catholic University conference at the University of Notre Dame.

Goldsmith, along with other administrators, took four students to the conference, where St. John’s was a featured presenter.

The conference was a chance for universities to compare their sustainability efforts and showcase their successes.

Ashley Brown, president of the Earth Club, was one of the students who attended the conference. She began working with Goldsmith and the sustainability initiative last year to reach out more to students and to promote her organization.

Brown said she felt that the conference will help the SJSI with promoting sustainability.

“We learned a lot of different ways to reach out to the student body about sustainability issues,” she said. “It was a great conference and now we’re coming back to figure out where to start first.”

Students outside the initiative are noticing the University’s efforts.

Stephanie Sica, a senior, said she has seen an improvement over her four years here.

“It’s impressive that they care so much about helping to make students more aware of the environment,” she said. “It’s such an important issue that people sometimes forget to care about.”

Another senior, Annemarie Harr, said she thinks the SJSI is an opportunity for students to have more input and make a difference.

“Students need to realize the impact they have on the environment and how they can contribute to making the world a better place,” she said. “They should take advantage of the opportunities this initiative has to offer.”