UNM Sustainability Report Card

October 13, 2009

UNM gets subpar 'green' grades

Last updated: 10/13/09 11:40pm

According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute, students need to do their part to make UNM “greener.”

The institute released a Sustainability Report Card last week that gave UNM a “B” overall, but a “C” for student involvement.

UNM’s overall grade did not change from last year’s report card, even though the University got lower grades in some categories. Last year, UNM got an “A” in transportation and an “A” in climate change and energy. Both grades fell to a “B” this year. The categories of food and recycling and green building rose from a “C” last year to an “A” for food and recycling and a “B” for green building this year.
Mary Clark, program specialist for UNM’s Office of Sustainability, said she doesn’t think the grades are fair. She said the institute grades universities based on survey responses from various campus organizations.

Clark said students didn’t have a chance to fill out surveys in the student involvement category, because the survey was sent out during the summer.
“I couldn’t get any students to answer, because they sent out that survey in July,” she said. “I called them back and I said, ‘I can’t get a hold of students in July,’ and they said ‘Well, just do your best.’”

Representatives from the institute did not return phone calls or e-mails this week.
Clark said part of the problem is that UNM doesn’t have sustainability clubs in the dorms.

“We don’t currently have a sustainability club or an eco-work program at the dorms, or anything like that, so we got dinged primarily because we couldn’t get student response,” she said.

Clark said she sent the institute information on all the environmentally active clubs on campus.

“There’s Vegans and Vegetarians, there’s Net-impact, there’s alternative transportation,” she said. “I sent them all that information, but because I wasn’t a student responding, we got dinged.”

Student Elizabeth Bennett, who has worked on campus with environmental organization 1Sky, said the institute’s low grade is accurate. She said she had difficulty getting students to take an interest in the environment while working with 1Sky.

“As I was talking to students walking to class, I would ask them ‘Do you have a minute to fight global warming today?’ And so many people just answered ‘No,’” she said. “Solely based on generalizations, I would probably, maybe give them a ‘C-plus.’”
Terry Horger, program coordinator for the Sustainability Studies Program, said the University is working to improve sustainable practices on campus.

“We’re still in the process of enacting the sustainability policy that President Schmidly enacted last summer,” she said.

UNM beat NMSU in the Sustainability Report Card in every area. NMSU received a grade of “C-minus” overall, and a “D” for student involvement. Their overall grade last year was the same, but their grade for student involvement is down from a “C.”

Clark said the institute graded UNM on the same scale as other universities, such as the University of Colorado at Boulder, that have a lot more money to spend on sustainability investment.

“They lowered our grade on climate change and energy, and the only thing I can figure out is that we did not buy renewable energy credits for the Student Union,” she said. “Well, our budget is, you know — we’re having severe budget problems.”
Clark said the institute also asked UNM to pay them for next year’s ranking, and this is the first time they’ve asked for such a payment. She said her department doesn’t have the money to pay the institute, and that she thinks the grade this year was unfair.
“I’m glad that we beat State, but I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of what we’re really doing,” she said.

Published October 13, 2009 in News