The University of Connecticut tops 215 universities from 49 countries listed in Universitas Indonesia’s third annual GreenMetric World Ranking. UConn moved up to first place from third last year with a score of 7,569 points, and was followed by last year’s ‘greenest college,’ the University of Nottingham, England, with 7,375, and University College Cork/National University of Ireland with 7,301.
Results were computed from information that participating universities submitted online. For 2012, responses were evaluated in six weighted categories including: green statistics (15 percent); energy and climate change (21 percent ); waste management (18 percent); water usage (10 percent); transportation (18 percent); and education (18 percent).
President Susan Herbst says she is proud of UConn’s top ranking on the international GreenMetric list because it reflects the University’s long-term commitment to environmental stewardship.
“It’s great to be number one,” she says, “but our commitment is about much more than rankings. It’s about fulfilling our mission as a land and sea grant university and setting the right example, by moving forward with our Climate Action Plan (CAP), reducing our carbon footprint, conserving energy and water, and raising environmental awareness.”
This past year, UConn became the first university in the nation to include a Climate Adaptation Section in its CAP to help communities better understand and prepare for the effects of climate change. In addition, construction was completed on a $30 million reclaimed water facility that will conserve up to 500,000 gallons of water a day.
Richard Miller, director of UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, says the University’s responses to the GreenMetric survey were based on information originally compiled for the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Reporting System (STARS) that was developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The rigorous STARS reporting format is used by groups like the Sierra Club and the Princeton Review to ensure more uniform standards for campus sustainability rankings.
Miller notes that Environmental Policy staff, including himself, a graduate student sustainability coordinator, and several undergraduate interns, worked nearly 300 hours to complete the STARS format last spring.
“It was time well spent,” he says. “As a result, our response to the GreenMetric survey was more thorough and accurate, plus STARS data has helped us identify gaps from last year and take steps to improve.”
According to Miller, UConn’s GreenMetric score in the education category was more than double those of most other universities listed and clearly helped propel UConn to the top of the list. The education score considers not only sustainability courses and funded research, but also related publications, websites, events, and student organizations.
Miller says that in 2012, UConn hosted an inaugural week-long series of speakers and events known as CIMA, or Climate Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation, in addition to the usual Earth Day Spring Fling in April, football and basketball “Green Game Days,” and the annual EcoMadness inter-dorm energy and water conservation competition.
Other efforts that enhanced UConn’s score include a ‘Sustainable UConn’ blog that was added to UConn Today to complement an existing Office of Environmental Policy sustainability website, Facebook page, and newsletter. And the EcoHusky student group, which works in conjunction with the Office of Environmental Policy, often collaborates with students from other environmental clubs and the EcoHouse living and learning community, whose emphasis on community service has steadily increased student involvement in all sustainability-related activities and events on campus.
The methodology used by Universitas Indonesia is based on the principle that measuring sustainability should involve evaluation of the environment, economics, and social equity. Universitas Indonesia professor Gumilar Rusliwa Somantri notes that the ranking is unique because it uses a methodology and standards that make it possible for universities in developing countries to see how they measure up against the world’s best, while also providing a starting point for institutions that are less experienced in maintaining high environmental standards.
In 2012, universities completing the survey came from as far afield as South Africa, Japan, China, Fiji, Chile, and Mexico, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, and multiple countries in Europe. In the first year of the program, 95 universities took part; last year the total was 178; and this year, 215. The ultimate goal is to have 2,000 institutions of higher learning participating in the future.