While the College Sustainability Report Card 2009 highlights the schools with the 300 largest endowments in the United States and Canada, sustainability innovators among colleges and universities with smaller endowments also merit recognition.
Accordingly, the Sustainable Endowments Institute solicited nominations for schools not included in the Report Card 2009. The nominations—consisting of a detailed description of sustainability initiatives—recognize schools for either a comprehensive sustainability strategy or a specific category of the Report Card. For more details on the nomination and selection process, please refer to Methodology.
After reviewing nominations, the Sustainable Endowments Institute chose three winners for the 2009 Sustainability Innovator Awards:
Green Mountain College
The Student Campus Greening Fund (SCGF) at Green Mountain College is a student-run program designed to help put into action greening initiatives that increase sustainability awareness and decrease the school’s environmental impact. Every Green Mountain student annually contributes approximately $30 to the SCGF through the campus activities fee.
Proposal writers submit draft applications in the fall to be reviewed by student peers on the Fund-Loving Committee, as well as by any appropriate staff, faculty, and facilities administrators. Pertinent feedback is incorporated into final proposals, which are made available online and in hardcopy during a week-long student voting period. Student teams tally the votes and grants are made accordingly. Student codirectors and a peer committee are responsible for management of the fund and the grant cycle process.
Since its inception in 2004, SCGF has funded a wide range of projects including the purchase of double-sided printers in the library; a $10,000 biomass feasibility assessment for the campus heating system; new campus recycling bins; and the purchase of local food in the dining hall. In addition, the SCGF helps students gain valuable project management, grant writing, and organizing skills while advancing the college’s environmental mission.
For more than 35 years, Northland College has aimed to be a leading environmental liberal arts college, and students have been central innovators in the college's activities. Student class projects and extracurricular activities are often pilots for the college’s new sustainability-related programs. Two student representatives serve on Northland’s board of trustees. The Environmental Council—a team of students, faculty, and staff—has coordinated environmental sustainability efforts at Northland for more than 20 years, and they report directly to the president.
The Northland College Student Association is an independent nonprofit and has shown strong leadership in sustainability, funding an annual $20,000 campus sustainability project out of student fees since 2000. Projects have included purchasing a hybrid car for the admissions office, providing free commuter bus rides to Northland students, and purchasing a monitoring system for the campus’s photovoltaic arrays and wind towers. Twenty-five work-study students (greater than 3 percent of Northland students) lead numerous areas of sustainability-related operations efforts, and oversee additional student volunteers.
Northland challenges prospective students to pledge environmental leadership through its Eco-Visionary program. Eco-Visionaries pledge to make a difference through personal action, community participation, and global awareness. In addition to a new grant available for sustainability projects at high schools, the college awards two categories of scholarship to support committed new students.
University of Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
The University of Prince Edward Island, Canada (UPEI) was only the second university in Canada (after the University of British Columbia) to pursue a campus-wide sustainability strategy. From 2005 to 2007, UPEI employed a director of environmental studies and sustainability to lead the academic environmental studies program and to implement a pan-university ‘greening the campus’ initiative. The faculty appointment bridged academic and operations duties, providing rich synergies for student engagement.
The sustainability office, together with research and development projects, linked interdisciplinary environmental studies teaching and learning with student advocacy for campus sustainability. Sustainability apprenticeships integrated the national student sustainable campuses movement with for-credit, project-based sustainability education, using the UPEI campus as a learning laboratory.
With an aim toward an institution-wide culture of sustainability on campus, the UPEI sustainability office implemented a two-tiered, bottom-up and top-down strategic approach to systemic transformation. The strategy included measures such as a campus sustainability audit and annual reporting, reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and innovations in transportation, food, and governance.
The sustainability strategy also established strategic alliances off campus. University-community sustainability partnerships included a transportation initiative for Prince Edward Island. Such outreach efforts have stimulated sustainability innovations off campus and affirmed the university as a community leader in sustainable development.