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UK Down A Half Grade In Annual Sustainability Report

By Alan Lytle

Lexington, KY – The Boston-based Sustainability Endowments Institute is out with its annual national Green Report Card which measures colleges and universities' progress in improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon footprints and other environmental initiatives. Five Kentucky schools receive grades every year: Berea, Centre College, Eastern Kentucky University, The University of Louisville, and the University of Kentucky. So how did Big Blue do? UK is down a half a letter this year, going from a B - to a C +. S.E.I. spokesperson Susan Paykin says a possible reason for that is they've toughened the standards a bit.

"In past years we've asked more qualitative questions such as has your university made a commitment to these things; greenhouse gas emissions, yes or no? However, this year we are asking questions such as has your university made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if so, by how much, by what year? So we are rewarding points based on how specific the university is with their policies and how aggressive those policies are also. We are looking at a lot more data and a lot more hard numbers."

UK Sustainability Coordinator Shane Tedder says he's not in complete agreement with the findings.

"We don't often quantify and we haven't put a target on greenhouse gas emissions but we have put it in the language of targeting percentages reduction in energy used which will have the exact same effect. One of the challenges of this survey is that it often seems to compare apples to oranges. I mean, you compare major public research institutions with small private liberal arts colleges in basically the same survey and it's just hard to get what I feel is a real solid comparison there."

The overall grade is a composite score based on nine categories. UK received the lowest mark (a D) in decreasing energy use, and its best grade was an (A) in the area of Transportation. B's and C's were earned in Administration, Food and Recycling, Green Building, Student Involvement, Investment Priorities, and Endowment Transparency.

The Kentucky schools with the highest overall grades once again were Berea and U of L with a B. Centre College in Danville rates a B -, Eastern Kentucky University and UK both earned a C +.