In Albion College’s 2010-2011 theme year of sustainability, the college received a C+ in sustainability for 2011 in the College Sustainability Report Card, according to www.greenreportcard.com.
The College Sustainability Report Card is an online independent organization that annually evaluates over 300 schools nationwide on their level of sustainability. Using 48 indicators within nine categories—including administration, climate change, food and recycling—the report card generates letter grades for each school.
Doug White, biology professor and co-chair of the sustainable committee, said he believes Albion College can do better than the given letter grade, but the school also has room for improvement. In 2010, Albion received a C- letter grade.
“The state of the environment is not going away, just as the category requirements (of the report card) are not going away,” White said. “On an absolute scale of sustainability, we fall short.”
White said the college is on the right track to maintain momentum in becoming more sustainable—specifically supported by its emphasis on education.
“The principle product of Albion College is the education of the students,” White said. “That is what we are emphasizing. This themed year is a fantastic commitment; we should be very proud of the progress we’ve made this year.”
This year’s theme of Sustainability has been the focus for a variety of events and activities, which include the Green Day event, a bike rental service, and vegetarian days at Baldwin.
Susan Havens, sustainability committee member, said she wanted to see a greater range of student involvement at the scheduled sustainability events and activities.
“We tend to see the sciences at the events, but communications, business, psychology, ethnic studies, sociology and many others would have benefited from the offering,” Havens said. “We want to see all the campus involved, we want everyone to understand that sustainability is not just a science issue but an issue everyone should be concerned about. We want a gathering of many points of view.”
From a student’s perspective, Lauren Ridenour, Troy first-year, was not surprised that Albion College received a less-than-fortunate grade.
“There is a lack of involvement by the student body as a whole,” Ridenour said. “It is very much an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing. When a student wants to throw away a water bottle or plastic item, they just end up throwing it in the trash instead of recycling.”
The college plans to continue the push towards creating a sustainable environment in years to come. The theme of sustainability will be weaved throughout the other selected themed years, which are Wellness and Global Diversity.
“This year’s theme, emphasizing sustainability, is part of three year rotating cycle and will come up again,” White stated.
“By taking personal responsibility for their electric appliances, the foods they choose to eat, and how they travel, students can easily cut their carbon footprint in half by without impairing their happiness” White said.
White added that he wants students to know they have the ability to make changes in their lifestyles to become greener.
“Students can make a difference, should try to make a difference, and advocate these changes. It is necessary that students take part in living sustainably.”
Havens and White both believe that being a smaller school has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to making drastic alterations to lifestyles and school-wide initiatives.
“Environmentalists have theorized that smaller schools adapt easier to being more earth-friendly because of the community-like atmosphere, and that it takes all members of the community to make changes,” White said.
For 2011, Michigan State University received a “B+” overall from the Report Card and University of Michigan–Ann Arbor received a “B.” In 2010, Michigan State University received a “B” and University of Michigan—Ann Arbor received a “B+.”
According to White, The College Sustainability Report Card should not be taken as a “bullying threat,” but should be used as a resourceful tool and parameter for students’ own self-reflection.
Havens echoed White’s sentiments, saying that she is more invested in inspiring students to make a change in their own lives.
“I want to make kids more sustainable because when they leave, they are the ones going into the real world,” Havens said. “How we affect generations beyond our own should be the focus of being sustainable, not the grade a website gives us.”