USF Raises GPA in Sustainability Report Card

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While USF has a thorough recycling and composting system in place, the university was deducted points for low student involvement.  Illustration by Elizabeth Brown/Foghorn
While USF has a thorough recycling and composting system in place, the university was deducted points for low student involvement. Illustration by Elizabeth Brown/Foghorn

With compost and recycling bins collecting waste responsibly throughout the campus, solar panels lining many a rooftop, and locally-grown organic produce being served up in the cafeteria, USF appears to be on the right track in its quest for environmental responsibility. The College Sustainability Report Card (an independent organization that ranks colleges’ and universities’ environmental policies) seemed to think so too. USF received a grade of a B+, up significantly from last year’s disappointing grade of a C.

According to Glenn Loomis, chair of the Green Team Committee and director of community relations at USF, the university worked very hard to bump up their grade. Loomis attributes the improved ranking to two main achievements. The first was the use of the photovoltaic  panels that collect solar energy on top of five different buildings on campus. Loomis said these panels now supply 18 percent of the electricity on campus. Another step that improved USF’s grade was University President Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J. signing two different sustainability agreements, including the international Talloires Declaration and the national Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

The College Sustainability Report Card ranked USF in nine different categories of sustainability. USF earned A’s in most of the categories, including Climate Change and Energy, Green Building and Food and Recycling. USF fell shortest in the category of Shareholder Engagement, earning a D. This category measures the involvement with which USF’s investors interact with corporations to push for more sustainable business practices. However, the majority of universities surveyed earned a D or F in this category.

The second lowest grade USF earned was a C in the category of Student Involvement. Junior environmental studies major Brittany Rowles is president of Back to da Roots, one of the only environmentally-focused clubs on campus. She said she believes that “definitely, USF deserves a C grade.” An active member of the environmental movement at USF, she said she sees a lot of people care about the environment, but they’re not actively doing anything about it. She said, “Our e-mail list contains about 200 e-mail addresses, but our meetings consist of about 15 people. A lot of people can write down their e-mail address and say they care, but they can’t drag themselves to a meeting.”

Still, compared to other universities, USF is doing very well. Among other Jesuit schools, USF tied in first place with Seattle University, which also received a B+. Among all universities, 22 schools tied for first place with an A-. Neighboring school  UC Berkeley scored a B, Santa Clara University scored a B, and Stanford University scored an A-.

USF strives to further improve their sustainability and perhaps their College Sustainability Report Card grade for next year. This year, USF is trying to retroactively apply for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification for finished buildings Kalmanovitz Hall and the Gleeson Library. Plans are developing for the Center for Science and Innovation, which will be built to replace Harney Science Center, and will feature the latest in green technology.

For students, a new program is being tested within the on-campus apartment complex, Loyola Village. This year, each apartment unit is competing to utilize the least amount of electricity. Those who conserve the most will be awarded eco-friendly prizes like a yearlong ZipCar account or $1,000 in Flexi.

Overall, Loomis is impressed with the progress he has seen at USF. “Everybody is getting on this bandwagon, and a lot of changes have taken place,” he said. “But on the other hand, we have a long way to go.”

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