Oct 072009
Authors: Jim Sojourner

Despite extensive efforts to market itself as the “Green University,” CSU received an overall “C-plus” rating for its green initiatives from one environmental sustainability rating organization –/a rating CSU spokesperson Brad Bohlander said does not reflect CSU’s overall sustainability efforts.

CSU received high marks in food and recycling and transportation from this year’s College Sustainability Report Card, but was rated far behind competitor CU-Boulder, which received an overall “A-minus” rating. Last year CSU received a “B-minus” on the same survey, which is conducted annually by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors special project the Sustainable Endowment Institute.

According to the project Web site, Greenreportcard.org, the institute surveyed about 300 colleges across the country.

“Our mission at CSU is education, research and outreach,” Bohlander said, adding that the “very narrow” survey took into account only CSU’s campus efforts, which, although important, exclude its academic, education, research and social impacts.

The university’s compostable take-out containers and tray-less dining halls brought in the highest marks, in addition to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings, public transportation system and bike-friendly campus.

“F” ratings in endowment transparency and shareholder engagement brought down CSU’s overall rating the most.

Bohlander said CSU receives a large number of requests for such sustainability surveys and no one is specifically responsible for providing survey organizations relevant information. He said CSU is selective in choosing the surveys it participates in and it initially declined to participate in this particular survey because of a $700 entry fee.

After the fee was waived for large universities,Bohlander said CSU allowed the organization to use old data but did not actively participate or send it CSU’s financial information.

In particular, Bohlander said the survey failed to take into account innovations such as a low-cost, clean-burning cookstove and a two-stroke engine — both of which are being implemented throughout the developing world — developed by CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory.

“We try to focus on a much broader impact,” Bohlander said. “Education is paramount to us.”

However, local energy industry expert Eric Sutherland said Bohlander has “no idea what he’s talking about,” and said while the university does succeed in creating a green image, it fails to adequately educate students about energy issues.

“We’ve got a university that wants to hype, not educate,” Sutherland said. “CSU is hyper-valuing their educational effort in sustainable technology.”

Sutherland said CSU does not have a unique or high-quality environmental sustainability education program or a proper carbon accounting system and noted that its campus is only accessible by car for students commuting from outside of Fort Collins. He said those are/just a few examples of how CSU is failing to adequately tackle contemporary energy and environmental issues.

“When CSU tries to say they have a large educational component, where is it?” he said.

The full findings of the survey can be found at Greenreportcard.org.

News Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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