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The Carletonian

Carleton named a College Sustainability Leader

<rleton College was awarded a good grade of A- and the distinction of an Overall College Sustainability Leader in the The College Sustainability Report Card, which recently released its 2011 grades after closely examining 322 selected colleges.

The College Sustainability Report Card is the only independent organization that evaluates campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. To select the schools, the organization chose the 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments and 22 additional schools that applied to be included in the report. The combined endowment assets of these institutions totaled more than $325 billion, representing more than 95 percent of all university endowments.

Of these learning institutions, Carleton was one of only 52 that achieved an overall average of A- on their respective sustainability evaluations. Carleton received A’s in the categories of Climate Change & Energy, Food & Recycling, Student Involvement, Transportation, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement. The college fell short, however, when it came to Green Buildings and Administration, receiving grades of B in those two categories.

The Sustainability Report Card’s official website ( gives short evaluations for each participating school, as well as a designated set of grading requirements for each of the specific categories. The Administration category, for example, focuses on evaluating a school’s “action toward sustainability at the administrative or trustee level” and highlights that institutions should have commitments like green purchasing policies, a sustainability coordinator, policies to commitments to sustainability in the institution’s mission statement or master plan, just to name a few.

Overall, 49% of the school administrations included in the Report Card earned an A. Carleton fell in with the 32% of schools that earned a B. The breakdown for the Green Building category, was more evenly distributed; Carleton was among the 34% of schools earning a B, behind the 34% who earned an A. This category included commitments to a sustainable design standard in new construction, renovations, and maintenance, as well as constructing buildings to green building standards.

Carleton, however, can still take a great deal of pride in such categories as Transportation (where the school ranked in the top 37%), Endowment Transparency (top 16%), and Shareholder Engagement (top 11%).

The organization assesses colleges and universities based on the nine previously mentioned categories, which are all equally weighted. To gather information, they send out surveys concerning sustainability in campus operations, dining services, endowment investment practices, and student activities. These surveys were sent to administrators and students at each of the 322 schools from April through September 2010. The responses to these surveys can be found on the website.

In determining a school’s final grade, each category is broken down into subcategories and allotted a percentage, with some subcategories including an “extra credit” bonus for institutions that demonstrate a high degree of innovation. Schools earn an A in a particular category by meeting at least 70% of the requirements, a B for at least 50%, a C for at least 30%, and a D for at least 10%. After calculating grades for all nine main categories, The Report Card calculates the school’s GPA on a 4.0 scale and assigns an overall letter grade for the year.

As a disclaimer, though, the organization states that these grades, though based on a wide variety of policies and programs, do not take into account all possible sustainability efforts and they do not include “teaching, research, or other academic aspects concerning sustainability.”

Sustainability Assistant (STA) Laura Henry ‘13 said she largely agreed with the evaluation. “I think an A- is pretty reflective of the college’s commitment to sustainability – we’re doing a lot of things right, but there’s always room for improvement. I think it’s slightly surprising that the administration only received a B, but I think for Green Buildings, [the grade] is accurate.”

More recently, the college has constructed Cassat and Memorial Halls, which have both received gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and will finish the new Arts Union building (which will meet silver LEED certification) in the near future.

The drive towards a more sustainable future depends on “participation from the entire student body,” said Henry. “If we really want to enact major change, and if we can get people from all angles to contribute ideas for how we can become more sustainable and get everyone excited about what we can accomplish as a campus, there’s no reason why Carleton shouldn’t be seen as a leader in the college/university green movement.”

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