VCU green efforts make the grade

Hillary Huber

Contributing Writer

Students aren’t the only ones at VCU getting graded. Last week, the College Sustainability Report Card released its 2011 evaluations. Along with 45 other schools across the country, VCU got an A-, based on the overall sustainability of each campus.

The report grades a range of sustainability categories, including administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement. VCU scored best in areas like administration and food recycling, but lower in student involvement and investment priorities.

Jacek Ghosh, the director of sustainability, said that student involvement has been one of his priorities ever since he took on his position, which was the first position of that kind to be filled at VCU.

“(Green initiatives on campus) only make sense when students are involved. Students are the ones who will spread the word and study these issues, and that’s extremely important,” Ghosh said.

He also mentioned the numerous student organizations that are actively involved in the green initiatives, including Green Unity, Urban Planning, Student Government, and some Greek philanthropies.

Though the university received a “B” in the investment priorities categories, Ghosh assured that VCU’s effort for investing in green technology has been anything but stagnant. Examples of investments include the recent increase in eco-friendly “BigBelly” trash compactors, green facility management vehicles, and events for awareness, like the recent Sustainability Day.

Sam Talarman, a junior biochemistry major, said while the school scored lower for student involvement, he thinks the students take sustainability efforts on campus very seriously.

“I take it seriously. The students take it seriously. The staff takes it seriously,” Talarman said. “(Sustainability) is very important on campus, and it shows.”

Beyond student involvement, the university has a website (vcugoesgreen.vcu.edu) dedicated to its green”efforts, that explains its green initiatives, as well as its “green” plan for the future. VCU has also developed “60 steps towards sustainability,” a list of energy-efficient things everyone can do that will help the school achieve its goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050.

Cliff Fox, Ph.D., J.D., the interim assistant director in VCU’s Center for Environmental Studies, said he thinks that getting an A- rather than an A is a good thing, and that it gives the school room for growth. “The incentive to improve means the school will constantly improving their standing in respects to sustainability.”

With its plan to have a carbon-neutral footprint by 2050, the university’s efforts to become even more sustainable are increasing to fulfill that promise. For more information on other schools’ grades were on the report, visit greenreportcard.org.

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