University earns ‘A-‘ in sustainability

Dan Kerrigan

Villanova has been recognized by the College Sustainability Report Card as one of the 52 most environmentally responsible universities in the United States and Canada for 2011, according to a University press release.

The report card, which awarded Villanova with an overall score of ‘A-,’  is produced by the Sustainability Endowments Institute and generates scores based on nine criteria: administration, climate change & energy, food & recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement.  

As evident by these nine criteria, the term “sustainability” encompasses more than merely the carbon footprint and energy use and extends to a general awareness and responsibility toward the environment.  

The term even goes so far as to include awareness of such things as campus structure with regard to walking and biking, according to biology professor John Olson.              

With a grade of ‘A-,’ the University has, for the fourth consecutive year, improved its score from its previous evaluations.  

This continuing progress moves the University closer to its goal of “climate neutrality” by 2050, which was also affirmed in the press release.  

The President’s Environmental Sustainability Committee is the current prevailing authority on the University’s commitments to the environment.  Olson, chairperson for the committee, said Villanova has had such commitments long before and entirely separate of these recent public evaluations such as the College Sustainability Report Card. The report card has only been assessing schools since 2006 while the University has recognized Earth Day since 1970.  

Committees responsible for sustainability and environmental responsibility, such as PESC, have been a constant force at this University, leaving PESC with a long evolution in its history. 

However, it has only been since 2007 that the University has applied the broader term of “sustainability” to these standards.

The University plan is visible in some places, such as improvements to buildings like Fedigan Hall and the dedication to green building in new constructions such as Driscoll Hall and the new law school, which have both earned gold ratings from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for their environmentally friendly designs.  

However, much of the University’s plan extends far into the future.  

With two of its low grades on the 2011 report card being “student involvement” and “endowment transparency,” Olson urges greater coordination among campus initiative, including PESC, student groups and Facilities Management. 

A collaborated effort across the campus is what will achieve the 2050 deadline and a sustainable future for the University, according to Olsen.