Improvement still needed in sustainability

By By Anne Roper

By Anne Roper

The U now has one more thing to taunt BYU with. Sure, our Bowl Championship Series ranking went up this weekend and theirs went down, but a new annual comparison leaves us far above the school down south, even if it doesn’t neatly fit into a MUSS-style cheer.

The College Sustainability Report Card asks the 300 universities with the largest endowments in the United States and Canada to fill out a survey every year to assign them a letter grade that is fitting for the universities’ efforts to become as sustainable as possible. The report card is an initiative of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

Not only did the U improve its grade from a C to a B, the grade looks especially impressive next to the F that BYU received. Not surprisingly, BYU was quick to shrug off the failing grade by blaming it on not filling out the survey.

“We are not surprised by the institute’s results as we did not respond to this survey,” said administrative vice president Brian Evans in a statement.

However, there is still a report card posted for BYU on the Web site, The best grade the university received was one C for its investment priorities. It got a D for recycling. The U earned B’s in both categories.

Still, the U received a C for student involvement, a grade that sustainability coordinator Jen Colby said was both disappointing and shocking.

The Office of Sustainability was an initiative of students who wanted to be more active in the fight for sustainability, something that was overlooked on the report card, said Jessica Scharf, director of the Associated Students of the University of Utah Board of Sustainability.

Scharf hopes the U’s student involvement grade improves to a B or B+ next year. The board is starting a plastic recycling program and is in the beginning stages of purchasing more sustainable energy for the U.

The Web site summarizes the universities’ responses to the survey. The first thing listed under the student involvement category is that “Student representatives in the residence halls work to raise awareness about sustainability.”

The majority of the U’s students, who don’t live in the residence halls, aren’t going to receive this “awareness.” A commuter campus like the U needs to expand this effort.

Although most of the change in the U’s grades this year was positive, it did slip from an A to a B in its investment priorities. The survey response was a little discouraging, stating the U “aims to optimize investment return and is exploring, but not currently invested in, renewable energy funds or similar investment vehicles.” I hope that by next year, the U will be done exploring and ready to do some investing.

I suppose the U can feel good that at least it isn’t failing, but I’d like to think the students here are capable of being better than average.

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Anne Roper

Kevin Merriman