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Harvard Ranks High in Green Score

By Natasha S. Whitney, Crimson Staff Writer

Green grades are in, and Harvard scored an A-, placing it among the 15 most environmentally-friendly universities for the second year in a row.

In the nine subdivisions evaluated this year, including a newly formed “Student Involvement” category, Harvard earned seven A’s, a B in Transportation, and a C in Endowment Transparency.

The College Sustainability Report, the only independent evaluation of universities’ campus and endowment sustainability measures, is issued annually online in order to make aggregate information about universities’ green-ness easily accessible to the public.

Mark Orlowski, the founder and executive director of the Cambridge-based Sustainable Endowments Institute that produces the report, said he thinks that universities can play a “critical role” in educating students on how to reduce environmental impact and hopes that the report encourages these initiatives.

“Universities are all about fostering growth and helping society, especially in the long term,” Orlowski said. “It’s only fitting that universities help lead the charge when it comes to enhancing the sustainability of the country and the world.”

While Harvard’s score, tied for the top one awarded, has not changed, two thirds of universities surveyed over the past two years have improved their grades. In the 2008 report, there were only three Overall College Sustainabilty Leaders (a grade of A-) in addition to Harvard. But this year, an additional 11 schools, including Stanford, Brown, and Columbia, joined the ranks. Yale remained slightly below with a B+ overall.

These increases, in addition to upward trends in each of the nine sub-divisions, are “very encouraging” and point toward a nation-wide surge in universities’ sustainable practices, according to Olowski.

He attributed higher interest in environmental issues to a variety of factors, including business incentives for investing in energy efficiency and students and prospective students’ demands for greener campuses.

Orlowski cites a recent Princeton Review survey in which 63 percent of college applicants said that a college’s environmental commitment could affect their final decisions on where to attend school.

“More and more colleges who compete for the best students with academics and other reputation elements realize they can’t fall behind on sustainability policies,” Orlowski said.

The report touted various measures as evidence of Harvard’s commitment to the environment, namely Faust’s push to reduce Harvard’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2006 levels by 2016 and the continued expansion of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative.

HGCI Co-Chair Thomas E. Vautin said he agrees that Harvard is among the nation’s green leaders, but added that more work remains to be done.

“The commitment to sustainability is clearly embedded in the culture of this University,” Vautin said. “I anticipate that all corners of the University—students, faculty and staff—will continue to help the University advance its record in this arena.”

—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached at nwhitney@fas.harvard.edu.

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