The University of Houston is making significant progress in reducing its carbon footprint according to the 2011 College Sustainability Report Card released today. UH earned a B+ for 2011, a half grade higher than last year's B-. While several other Texas school matched UH's B+ ranking, no other scored higher.
According to Emily Messa, assistant vice president of university services, UH made its most significant improvements in the categories of parking and transportation, administration, and energy and climate, earning an "A" in all three assessment areas.
"As an urban university with limited parking, we needed to focus on ways to make the campus more accessible so we added car sharing, a strong partnership with METRO and more students living on campus," said Messa, who also serves as an ex-officio member of the UH Sustainability Task Force and member of the city of Houston Clean City Commission. "Additionally, the Outdoor Adventure equipment rental program makes bikes and the option of cycling accessible to our students."
At the recommendation of the Sustainability Task Force - made of administrators, staff and students - the official Campus Sustainability Policy was approved by UH President Renu Khator in January and will be reviewed every three years. The aim of the sustainability efforts of the university is to reduce the carbon footprint of the university by 80 percent by 2030, using 2005 emission levels as a baseline. To meet this goal, UH is focused on a low-carbon diet, which provides a roadmap to sustainability for all departments.
"This is a lofty goal," said Messa. "It will require us to be entrepreneurial in seeking new ways to reduce energy consumption, rely more on mass transit, recycle more and consume less. The university's ranking is reflective of the commitment we have to sustainability, however, there is much work to be done."
The report is the only independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities in North America. The survey evaluates the colleges and universities in the United States and Canada with the 300 largest endowments. The grading system focuses on policies and practices in nine main categories ranging from climate change and energy to endowment transparency.
The rankings come on the eve of Green UH Day on Oct. 28 at Butler Plaza in front of the M.D. Anderson Library. The campus community is invited to learn about all of the university's sustainability projects including recycling, green commuting and even sustainable books. Events kick off at 11 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. For a schedule, visit www.uh.edu/green.
"Universities have a promise to the world to teach future generations how to live in a more sustainable way." said Messa. "At the University of Houston, this promise is reflected in the hard work of many departments, staff, faculty and students who have, and will continue to, rise to the challenge of making the world a better place."
For more information on the The College Sustainability Report Card visit http://greenreportcard.org/.