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E-M:/ Michigan Ranks No. 9 Nationally in College, University Sustainability Programs



For Immediate Release: August 21, 2008
 
Contact: Julian Keniry, (703) 438-6322, keniry@nwf.org
Terry Link, (517) 355-1751, link@msu.edu
Jordan Lubetkin, (734) 887-7109, lubetkin@nwf.org
 
Michigan Ranks No. 9 Nationally in College, University Sustainability Programs
 
Michigan State University Among Leaders in New National Wildlife Federation Report Card on Sustainability in Higher Education
         
ANN ARBOR, MICH. (August 21)—Michigan’s colleges and universities rank 9th in a new national report card from the National Wildlife Federation that gauges how well institutions of higher education are recycling, conserving energy and water, protecting wildlife habitat and teaching environmental education. The report compares findings with a previous study conducted in 2001.
 
The report recognizes nine Michigan institutions for their exemplary sustainable practices and commitments: Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant); Henry Ford Community College (Dearborn), Kalamazoo College (Kalamazoo); Michigan State University (East Lansing); Monroe County Community College (Monroe); North Central Michigan College (Petoskey); Rochester College (Rochester Hills); Saginaw Valley State University (University Center); and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).
 
The “Campus Environment 2008 Report Card” highlights Michigan State University as one of six campuses nationally to have a high number of exemplary marks in several categories—from offering interdisciplinary degrees in environmental and sustainable studies to harnessing clean energy sources.
 
“I think it’s safe to say that MSU is honestly striving to be a truly ‘green’ university,” said Terry Link, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability for Michigan State University. “We are attempting to walk our motto – ‘Advancing Knowledge, Transforming Lives’.  We stand arm-in-arm with other Michigan institutions of higher education, most of which are also busily striving to meet the challenges that global climate change and increasing resource consumption pose to our nation’s environment, economy and way of life.”
 
The 2008 report card, based on a survey conducted in partnership with Princeton Survey Research Associates International, finds that environmentally progressive and sustainable operations rank among the highest priorities on campus. However, students are less likely to be environmentally literate when they graduate than their predecessors.
 
The study, which reviews programs at 1,068 institutions, recognizes colleges and universities for exemplary performance and awards academic letter grades (A through D) for collective, national performance on a broad range of conservation issues, including energy, water, transportation, landscaping, waste reduction and environmental literacy.  Campuses in the survey are not graded or ranked on an individual basis; rather, the survey analyzes collective trends in the areas of management, operations, and academics.
 
The 2008 survey is the nation’s largest study to date created to gauge trends and new developments in campus sustainability.
 
“The 2008 report finds that campus leaders value sustainability.  They speak about it, plan for it, hire staff to support it, and the campuses they lead are steadily becoming greener models for the wider society,” said Julian Keniry, NWF’s senior director of campus and community leadership.  “At the same time, the educational curricula to prepare students for a post-college world influenced by climate change are not keeping pace.  On most campuses, the business leaders and facilities managers appear to be making greater strides towards sustainability than their faculty peers.”
 
The study reveals trends including:
• The most prevalent environmental initiative is water conservation, versus recycling in 2001;
• Conserving energy is 2008’s most popular performance goal, versus the 2001 goal of upping environmental performance in new buildings;
• The biggest green opportunity colleges are missing is adequate education about sustainability for their students;
• Funding is the biggest obstacle to expanding environmental and sustainability programming, versus the “other priorities” cited in 2001. 
 
Regarding school management, American colleges show greener overall leadership than they did in 2001.  The study reveals that management generally values environmental, social and economic sustainability and is putting systems in place to broaden and sustain engagement campus-wide.  Indicators of this commitment include increased goal-setting to improve performance, more staffing for sustainability programs, and a rise in orientation programs on waste reduction and other sustainability efforts on campus.  However, sustainability initiatives still face roadblocks such as inadequate funding and support for faculty development.
 
The survey finds that campuses have successfully woven sustainable practices into their day-to-day operations to conserve energy and water, increase the amount of clean energy used to power the campus, and reduce waste.  Since 2001, the number of campuses using clean renewable energy has grown significantly, and a new movement to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases has taken hold.  However, little progress has been made in reducing the congestion, pollution and other environmental impacts associated with campus commuting.
 
Results show that academics still lag behind the operations vision of the campus—even more so than when this survey was first conducted in 2001. Sustainability-related education offerings and recruitment programs have declined, as have faculty doing environmental and sustainability research.  Just over half of colleges and universities now offer either an undergraduate major or minor in environmental and sustainability studies, down from two-thirds in 2001. 
 
“This Report Card tells us there is a widening gap between where higher education actually is on teaching sustainability versus where it should be,” said Kevin Coyle, vice president of education for National Wildlife Federation. “Given the environmental challenges and opportunities this generation will face, I find this cause for deep concern and am committed to working with our partners to address this on both state and federal levels.”
 
More than 240 individual schools are recognized and named in the report for having exemplary levels of sustainability activities, as determined by survey responses.  The school engaged in the greatest number of such activities is Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. 
 
“The Campus Environment 2008 Report Card reveals just how well institutions of higher learning are preparing students for the environmental challenges they will face in the 21st century,” said Mary McIntosh, PhD, lead survey researcher with Princeton Survey Research Associates International.  “Many of the men and women who will lead our businesses, educational institutions and government agencies in the next 20 years are in college now.”
 
“We need to offer today’s college students the kind of academic and professional preparation that will ready them to envision and create a healthier and more sustainable world,” said David Eagan, PhD, survey project co-coordinator based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
 
Co-sponsors of the study include the American Association of Community Colleges, American Association of Sustainability in Higher Education, APPA-Leadership in Educational Facilities, American Society of Landscape Architects, Clean Air-Cool Planet, Energy Action Coalition, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, National Association of College and University Business Officers, National Association of Campus Activities, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison, Society for College and University Planning. The study is funded by the Kendeda Fund and other sources.
 
The full Campus Report Card, including a list of schools participating in the survey and a list of schools with exemplary programs can be found at www.campusecology.org.
 
Since it was launched in 1989, National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program has worked with the college campus community (students, faculty, administrators and staff) to promote sustainability and ecological stewardship on campuses and beyond.  Visit www.campusecology.org for more information. 
 
National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.
 
 
 
 
 
Jordan Lubetkin
Senior Regional Communications Manager
National Wildlife Federation - Great Lakes Office
213 West Liberty, Suite 200 | Ann Arbor, MI 48104
 
Phone: 734-887-7109 | Fax: 734-887-7199 | Cell: 734-904-1589
 
NWF's mission is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future. www.nwf.org/news/
 
Working to restore the Great Lakes by offering solutions to sewage contamination, invasive species and other threats. www.healthylakes.org