EDITORIAL: A (more) sustainable Villanova

In a move that should make students proud, Villanova has propelled itself to a grade of a “B+” from a “C” in just two years’ time on the College Sustainability Report Card.

Perhaps most notably, in two years Villanova improved its ranking for shareholder engagement to an “A” from a “D” and brought endowment transparency up to a “B” from an “F.” Overall, the University received A grades in administration, food & recycling, investment priorities and shareholder engagement, B grades for climate change & energy, student involvement and endowment transparency and C grades for green building and transportation.

Already a standout for community service, the business school and the basketball team, Villanova is now gaining recognition for its various sustainability efforts.

The areas needing work are green building and transportation, where Villanova received “C” grades. With Driscoll Hall LEED-certified and certification for the Law School expected soon, the school shows its commitment to sustainable design in new construction.

It’s hard to imagine, though, that Tolentine, with dozens of window units, is energy efficient, or that the buildings on South Campus, like Stanford, completed in 1971, are anywhere near green standards. There are plans in the works to renovate Sheehan and Sullivan Halls in the next few years, like the University renovated Fedigan Hall this summer. Focusing sustainability efforts on the buildings on campus will have the most overall impact.

Buying local food, recycling and composting and encouraging students to get involved in green campaigns are all important steps, but the largest impact will come from reworking the energy efficiency of the biggest energy users on campus – our facilities.

The other area that needs the most improvement is transportation. The report card gives Villanova good marks for faculty and staff’s ability to purchase transportation passes pretax and also remarks on the shuttles that the University provides for students.

Other schools, however, strive to encourage bike use and stop cars from driving into the campus core. Some nearby schools, like Haverford, opt for electric golf carts for facilities workers, and Swarthmore even has a car-share plan for its students. Small changes like these would be simple to accomplish here, and with our location on both the R5 and R100 lines, Villanova could easily encourage public transit use among students.

Most students drive to campus, despite living within walking distance of a rail stop. If Villanova wants to “go green” beyond dining and facilities, it should encourage carpooling among off-campus roommates and create an incentive program for public transit use.

One option would be to offer transit passes to students at subsidized, or at least pretax cost, as faculty are able to purchase. This would lessen students’ carbon footprint and help Villanova neutralize the effects of students’ ample car usage. Combining green transit efforts with sustainable buildings would be the two most impactful steps Villanova could take to help its ranking – and, more importantly, the environment.