A national independent organization has given Kansas University a C+ grade for its sustainability efforts this year.
KU officials said the grade from the Web site greenreportcard.org is improved from last year’s C-, but it’s a sign the campus still has room to do better.
Jeff Severin, director of the KU Center for Sustainability, said that projects are ongoing throughout the campus, including efforts by KU Dining Services to use more local food, the use of biodiesel in KU buses and a strong recycling program.
In the ongoing sustainability effort — defined on the center’s Web site as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” — the campus still has ways to improve, he said.
The report card gives KU high marks — an A or B — in areas such as food and recycling, student involvement, and climate change and energy.
The student involvement portion of the report card didn’t surprise Severin, who saw more than 200 students turn out to create a rain garden at the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center this April.
He’s noticed a swell of support for such “green” causes in the last five years, he said.
“Definitely in that time, I’ve seen a big increase in support, not only in the number of student organizations, but in the dedication to projects like these,” Severin said.
And it’s not just from students, either.
Janna Traver, executive chef and assistant director for KU Dining Services, has created a rooftop garden on top of the Kansas Union using pots and old mayonnaise buckets. The garden was harvested for the final time last week ahead of an anticipated freeze over the weekend.
The garden gives KU Dining Services several pounds of tomatoes, fresh herbs and peppers each year. “We use it on a daily basis,” Traver said. “I wanted more availability of fresh herbs.”
Instead of paying $20 for a pound of thyme, for example, she spends about $2 for the same amount on the rooftop garden, and takes only what she needs.
One area for improvement for KU on the report card was in green buildings — the school received a D in that category. Severin said that later this month the Sustainability Center will be releasing a climate action plan including several recommendations to reduce emissions on the KU campus that will include campus buildings.
Some changes are easy, he said, though some involve some pretty big — and expensive — changes. It will serve as a general guideline, he said, with recommendations for administrators and individuals alike.
Cameron Bruns, a research fellow with the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which published the Green Report Card, said the survey had switched to a new methodology this year that involved much more qualitative analysis, with more in-depth surveys.
The only two categories where KU received a failing grade were in endowment transparency and shareholder engagement — areas that allow the public to see what kind of investments the school is making, and whether it is supporting companies that don’t use sustainable strategies, Bruns said.
KU finished in a tie for sixth place among Big 12 Conference schools in the rankings — Colorado got an A-, the highest grade any institution received, and Texas Tech received a D+, the lowest score in the conference.