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UW-Madison earns an “A” for sustainability efforts

October 27, 2010 By Jill Sakai

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has received the highest possible grade, an A, in a national college sustainability ranking released today.

The grade makes UW–Madison one of just seven schools, out of 322 campuses surveyed across the United States and Canada, to receive top marks on the College Sustainability Report Card 2011, an independent ranking prepared by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

UW-Madison was also named an Overall College Sustainability Leader for its high score.

The seven “A”s awarded this year are the first granted by the program since it began its rankings in 2006. In addition to UW–Madison, the other top-ranking schools are Brown University, Dickinson College, the University of Minnesota, Oberlin College, Pomona College, and Yale University.

“We have been working hard to make our campus more sustainable and we are very pleased with this reflection of our efforts,” says Faramarz Vakili, the UW–Madison director of sustainability operations. “But we are not going to rest until we know we are doing everything we can as a university to be a great steward of the environment and to make sustainability a state of mind and philosophy of operation in all aspects of the University’s research, education, operations, and community lifestyle.”

Schools were graded on 52 sustainability indicators across nine equally weighted categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, transportation, student involvement, endowment transparency, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement. Teaching, research, and other academic activities were not included in this analysis.

UW-Madison earned “A”s in eight of the nine categories and a “B” in food and recycling. The report card specifically highlights the new campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, a 24 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, sustainability efforts of numerous campus units, and the accomplishments of the We Conserve initiative.

“We are grateful for this recognition and are proud of what we’ve done so far. We consider this an important step and a milestone in the right direction and our goal is to be the best we can be on all fronts,” says Vakili.

The data were collected from four surveys sent to administrators and students between April and September of this year and designed to gather information about sustainability in campus operations, food and dining services, endowment investment practices, and student activities. Campus responses were independently evaluated and quantified to determine each school’s overall sustainability letter grade.

The schools surveyed include the colleges and universities with the 300 largest endowments in the United States and Canada, as well as 22 additional schools that applied for inclusion.