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Saturday, October 16, 2021

UC Davis aces the College Sustainability Report Card

The report cards are in and it is official: UC Davis is a green school. But just how green?

According to the 2011 College Sustainability Report Card, UC Davis passed with straight A’s in seven out of nine categories, including Transportation, Food and Recycling and Green Building.

The final grade of A- was high enough to earn UC Davis the title of “Overall College Sustainability Leaders,” a distinction only 52 other colleges across the United States and Canada earned this year. Other UCs such as UC Berkeley received a B+, UCLA a B and UCSD an A- as well.

Camille Kirk, UC Davis’s sustainability planner, said that this grade is cause for celebration and many groups on campus are responsible for the high grade.

“It is reflective of collective – and collaborative – efforts of staff, faculty, and students as well as friends and donors of UC Davis,” Kirk said.

The report card is an initiative by the Sustainability Endowment Institute (SEI), a non-profit research organization founded in 2005, which is committed to research and organization in sustainability practices on college campuses across the nation.

The results of the report card, which can be viewed at greenreport.org, is a part of a publication that is only the independent evaluation of sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices, according to a recent press release.

Senior SEI Research Fellow Christina Billingsley believes the report card, with an overall 4.0 GPA scale and letter grades, is a common tool that everybody can understand.

“We feel that the report card is an important tool where we can analyze how well campuses are progressing [in sustainability],” Billingsley said.

Results are gathered through information provided by schools in a 120 question survey on green practices on campus.

The survey includes 52 green indicators, including campus farm or garden, trayless dining, green building policy and a sustainability committee.

The importance of these report cards is rooted in the belief that college campuses are role models for others to follow.

“SEI feels colleges really have potential to influence communities,” Billingsley said.

UC Davis, for example, has actively promoted many campus practices that serve as a model for sustainability including energy efficient building construction, waste reduction in recycling and compost efforts. The university also provides transportation services that are environmentally friendly, such as bicycling, carpooling and car sharing services.

Kirk, mirroring the same sentiments as Billingsley, believes in both the importance of sustainability efforts and the roles that college campuses play.

“Every year, UC Davis educates thousands of students and future leaders, conducts path-breaking research, and provides solutions and ideas to help the state of California and the world understand and address society’s needs,” Kirk said in an e-mail interview.

Students on this campus have been historically proactive in their efforts and cooperation in creating campus amenities with the Bike Barn, Student Farm and Unitrans. Not only are they sustainable, they have become very much a part of campus life.

Student organizations and groups on campus also play an active role in promoting sustainable causes.

Such environmental projects as Project Compost have been actively promoted by groups like the Campus Center or the Environment (CCE), which provides volunteer opportunities and educates students on issues of ecologically awareness.

Sophomore Tessa Artale, a sociology and Spanish double major and volunteer coordinator for CCE, said sustainability is an important issue for this campus.

“Though there have been many successes, such as compost bins in the Memorial Union among so many others, the Davis campus still has a long way to go,” Artale said.

According to UC Davis’s report card, two categories that need improvement are Shareholder Engagement and Endowment Transparency.

“Currently UC Davis invests endowment holdings with the systemwide fund, so these are systemwide management issues,” Kirk said in an e-mail.

According to the College Sustainability Report Card guidelines, Endowment Transparency, which the campus received a B-, is a list of holdings available to the general public, and Shareholder Engagement, in which the university received its lowest grade of a D-, provides its investment managers with general guidelines that determine its proxy votes.

However, the campus is nonetheless emerging as an institution that is having profound effects on issues of sustainability across the nation. This is evidenced by its many recognitions in national surveys of sustainability including named as one of the top 10 campuses in sustainability by Greenopia in 2010, according to UC Davis’s sustainability web site.

This year, the university adopted the Climate Action Plan, outlining ways in which the campus will work to reduce green house admissions.

Kirk believes that the campus can succeed in many future sustainability goals by following simple steps such as turning off un-used equipment and lights.

“These sound like such small things, but across a campus population of more than 32,000 students and 30,000 employees little actions really add up,” Kirk said.

For more information on sustainability at UC Davis visit sustainability.ucdavis.edu.

JESSY WEI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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