University of Vermont makes the grade environmentally

UVM has made the environ?mental grade for a second consecutive year.The Sustainable Endowments Institute’s (SEI) “College Sustain?ability Report Card” awarded the University with an ‘A-‘ for 2008. “We received an ‘A-‘ last year, and I’m pleased that we received an ‘A-‘ again this year,” Director of the Office of Sustainability Gioia Thompson said.”The report recognizes that our campus community has a long history of making an effort to incorporate sustainability into many aspects of campus operations,” she said.The Report Card’s grading system is based on nine categories: administration, climate change and energy, endowment transparency, food and recycling, green building, investment priorities, shareholder engagement, student involvement and transportation, according to SEI’s Web site.Some of the grades that UVM received in each of these categories have changed over the past year, Thompson said.In 2007, the University received a ‘B’ in climate change and energy, but this year the grading was an ‘A,’ she said.”[This] difference may have been due to the creation of the Clean Energy Fund,” Thompson said.Another high mark that the University earned was in food and recycling, according to the SEI Web site. Recycling and Waste Manager Erica Spiegel acknowledged that UVM deserved the ‘A’ that it received.”We have one of the oldest recycling programs in the country and it covers all sectors of the University,” she said, “[but] we can still increase [the] percentage of … waste stream [diversion].”SEI presented UVM with a ‘B’ in student involvement, a category that was just recently added, and this “baffled” Thompson.”UVM has a very active student body,” she said, “[but] perhaps the lack of a formal sustain?ability program in orientation is the reason for this grade.”Eco-Reps Program Coordinator Christina Erikson was also disappointed by the lower mark. “Students have been great contributors to many successes in the past year,” Erikson said, citing the progress made on environmentally-friendly “toilet paper, voting for climate change in investment proxies and the Clean Energy fund [are just] a few.”The SEI is not the only organization to recognize UVM’s sustainability achievements this academic year. “There is a lot going on on the green front,” Assistant Director of University Communications Jeff Wakefield said.Sierra Club ranked UVM third in their annual Green College Guide in September, according to a press release, and Kaplan named UVM one of the nation’s “Top 25 Environmentally Responsible Schools,” according to its Web site. However, Thompson stressed that UVM’s work as a sustainable university is unfinished. “Overall … all institutions are going to do a lot more if our society is to meet the challenges of climate change,” Thompson said.Students also agreed. “I still think we can do better environmentally,” sophomore and environmental studies student Kerrie Lohr said. “An ‘A-‘ is giving us too much credit.”