Nov. 4, 2010

Cornell receives A- for sustainability in national ranking

Cornell received an overall A- grade in a national college sustainability ranking released last week by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, an improvement over last year's B grade.

The ranking placed Cornell among 52 schools named as "Overall College Sustainability Leaders" on the institute's College Sustainability Report Card 2011, the only independent evaluation of sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.

Only seven schools received an A, while 44 out of 322 schools surveyed across the United States and Canada received an A-. Ivy League schools fared well, with two -- Yale and Brown universities -- receiving A grades, and Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton joining Cornell with A-, and Columbia with a B+.

Schools were graded through publicly available information, surveys sent to school officials and student groups, and assessments on more than 120 questions across 52 indicators in nine categories. Within those categories, Cornell received A grades for administration, climate and energy, green building, student involvement, transportation and investment priorities; B grades for food and recycling and endowment transparency; and a C for shareholder engagement.

Among the highlights, in the climate and energy category, Cornell was noted for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent since 2008 and aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050. When it comes to green building, all new Cornell buildings must be at least Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and minimally 30 percent more energy efficient than established standards. Along with free bus passes for all employees and first-year students, Cornell was rated high for transportation, as 45 percent of employees and 91 percent of students commute to campus via environmentally preferable methods. Also, Cornell's investment priorities include an endowment currently invested in renewable energy funds, and the university uses investment managers who consider environmental and sustainability factors in their decision making.

The Sustainability Endowments Institute is a Cambridge-based nonprofit organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.