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JCU sustainability disappoints again

October 29th, 2009

John Carroll University recently received an overall D+ grade for campus sustainability from greenreportcard.org. This is after receiving an overall D grade last year.

Sustainability is defined by greenreportcard.org as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” One of the major factors that influences sustainability is the emission of carbon, commonly called a carbon footprint.

Individual grades were also given to various categories, including a B for food and recycling, a C for both student involvement and transportation, a D for green building and an F for the administration.

Associate Vice President of Facilities Carol Dietz was in charge of coordinating the responses for the survey on which the grade was based.

“I was disappointed by the grade. I thought that I took the time to show what JCU has done to improve,” said Dietz.

According to Dietz, many changes have taken place across campus in order to become more environmentally friendly. Many of these changes focus on energy efficiency, such as placing motion detecting lights in some bathrooms and laundry rooms, upgrading some of the lighting and improving the insulation on boilers.

Dietz also said that when major renovations are done, such as the dining hall renovation in the summer of 2008, highly recycled material is used.

Despite these improvements, JCU still received a low grade. One reason for the D+ was the F that the administration received. Two major factors for the F were that the University currently has no Sustainability Committee and has not signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

 According to Jonathan Smith, vice president and executive assistant to the president, JCU will soon have a Sustainability Committee in place. This committee will most likely consist of faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni. The committee would look at the best ways reduce the campus’ carbon footprint and what improvements would make the biggest impact.

“This [committee] has been a priority of President Niehoff. Currently I believe that students and others in our community are unaware of many of the initiatives [JCU has implemented]. A committee could improve communications,” said Smith.

As for the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, Smith said this was a more difficult task.

“The expectation is that we would commitment to move to a carbon neutral footprint. This is an admirable goal and one that we should strive for.  It is also a very expensive proposition,” said Smith.

One reason that this would be difficult for JCU is the University’s suburban location. Many students and faculty rely on automobiles for transportation to and from campus, which greatly increases the campus’ carbon footprint.

“That said, we will be examining ways reduce our carbon footprint – even if we don’t sign the President’s Climate Commitment,” said Smith.

Students of the Environmental Issues Group, however, feel that signing the commitment is an important step in reducing carbon emissions on campus. They have created a petition for students to sign to urge the University to sign the commitment.

“Many universities that have already made the commitment have seen a major decrease in carbon emissions and have enacted practical environmental tactics to make their campuses completely green. I think if we, as a community, hold our standards high, than we must act now to change our current agenda and sign the President’s Climate Commitment,” said Brad Bartelme, vice president of environmental issues group.

The University has also recently partnered with other area universities to explore options to improve sustainability on college campuses and to determine what the best ways are to achieve this in Northeast Ohio.

While disappointed with the University’s grade, JCU is concentrating on the future, according to Smith.

“Our focus is not on the grade but to establish long term practices that can be supported,” said Smith.