On the heels of Earth Day and an above average ranking by the Sustainable Endowments Institute for recycling efforts, building designs, energy efficiencies and other initiatives, a new guidebook is also recognizing West Virginia University’s commitment to the environment.
“The Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges” lists colleges and universities in the 80th percentile or higher of its “Green Rating” system. The previously released rating system scored 697 schools on efforts they took to become environmentally friendly.
WVU President James P. Clements praised the university’s efforts in creating a sustainable campus.
“I applaud the efforts of our faculty, staff and students who have worked hard on sustainability initiatives,” Clements said. “This honor is a great reflection of the depth and breadth of the programs and structures that we have in place. This is an important priority for our University, and we will continue to build on our success.”
In its profile of WVU, The Princeton Review describes the university’s large-scale cutback of energy usage through a performance contract that is examining how the university can minimize its environmental impact.
The university is in its third phase of a performance contract, which in its first two phases worked to make 53 buildings energy efficient at a cost of more than $20 million.
Following the project, the university was expected to reach a carbon dioxide emission 31.5 percent less than a typical educational complex its size.
The guide describes how the university dedicated $98 million worth of research to the field of energy in the last four years. The university’s one-of-a-kind Transportable Heavy-Duty Vehicle Emissions Test Laboratory is another green initiative cited.
The guide discusses how WVU donates excess food to charities and takes cooking oil to a biodiesel processor. Of the university’s five all-you-can-eat dining halls, four have gone trayless, which during a week’s comparison showed that one of the trayless dining halls had a 42 percent reduction in waste compared to the one with trays.
Clement Solomon, WVU’s director of sustainability, said the recognition is an honor for the entire WVU community.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction. It’s an acknowledgment that WVU as an institution is setting its priorities and making a serious institutional commitment towards sustainability.”
Solomon said the university looks at three main supports of sustainability: education and research; institutional stewardship; and public service and civic engagement.
The university strives to educate students and conduct research on sustainable practices and works to spread that knowledge into the larger world all while tidying its own house into a more sustainable place.
Solomon said that as WVU increases its level of sustainability, the university makes itself more attractive to students who make the environment one of their top priorities, a point recognized by The Princeton Review as it publishes the guide to green colleges.
Prospective students of course look at majors offered by a university, but they’re also interested in how the university conserves energy, reduces waste, and makes its facilities green, he said.
When the university looks at sustainability, Solomon said, it looks at the whole picture. WVU began by developing flagship programs such as its in-house recycling center, putting a large investment into performance contracts and developing ambassadors from its student population for the next generation.
WVU then moves on to developing new programs, including student-generated ones.
For example, the student organization Engineers Without Borders is designing a rainwater harvesting system on the grounds of the West Virginia University Research Forest and completed an energy audit of the Student Recreation Center, he said.
Among its sustainability initiatives, WVU has a competition among residence halls called Ecolympics that prompted at least two halls last year to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent and recycle more than 2,500 pounds of waste.
WVU has its own recycling unit that handles paper, aluminum, #1 plastic and cardboard. A contractor recycles the university’s electronics, fluorescent bulbs, scrap metal and toner cartridges.
The guide highlights facts about the university, including that 9.5 percent of its food budget is spent on local and organic food and 15 percent of the school’s cleaning budget purchases Green Seal-certified products. WVU’s waste diversion rate is 36 percent, and the university has a sustainability committee, at least one Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building and an environmental protection major.
For more information on WVU’s sustainability efforts, visit http://wecan.wvu.edu.
To access The Princeton Review’s new guide, go to http://www.princetonreview.com/greenguide
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