MU gets a B for being green

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | 4:43 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU has continued its upward trend in sustainability, earning a B in the 2011 edition of the College Sustainability Report Card.

The annual report from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, based in Massachusetts, grades the 200 best-endowed U.S. universities on a variety of criteria, including administration, food and recycling programs, green building and student involvement.

MU received a C- in 2009 and a B- in 2010, marking a clear upward trend.

Changes this year include an A for administration and an A for climate change and energy. MU received a B and an A in those categories,  respectively, in 2010 and a D and a C in those categories in 2009.

This year, the judging committee cited new campuswide sustainability initiatives such as the Environmental Affairs and Sustainability Committee as a reason for the improved grade in administration.

MU has also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 2008 levels by 2015, and it has already achieved an 8 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2008, according to the report, earning MU an A in the climate change and energy category.

One of MU's major initiatives has been to install a biomass boiler, which, according to a survey MU completed, accounts for 1 percent of the energy MU uses.

MU received an A in the green building category, up from a C last year, because of its two Energy-Star certified buildings and new installations of low-flow shower heads and faucets, dual-flush toilets and water metering.

"We are really trying to start a dialogue about sustainability initiatives on campus," Christina Billingsley, a senior research fellow at the Sustainable Endowments Institute, said on Wednesday.

"By grading and evaluating different campuses, we can set benchmarks, see how different universities are performing, and help universities observe best practices," Billingsley said.

"If one school in a state improves its score, often we see other schools in the same state improve their scores," Billingsley said, referring to MU's recent improvement.

"It's very exciting that MU got an A in administration this year," she said.

MU sustainability coordinator Steve Burdic attributes the rise in MU's sustainability grade to several new projects.

"We've got a sustainability office now with a sustainability coordinator and a standing committee," Burdic said. "We've done a greenhouse gas report, and we're getting ready to turn in a climate action plan that's due on Jan. 15, 2011."

Burdic also pointed to the biomass converter under construction at MU. The converter, capable of converting 100 percent biomass to energy, will reduce MU's coal consumption by 25 percent, Burdic said.

"I'm always happy when people recognize what we're doing with sustainability," Burdic said.

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