LEWISTON — Bates College earned a high grade for environmental sustainability on campus, according to an annual survey of 332 colleges and universities across the country and in Canada.

The College Sustainability Report Card gave Bates an overall grade of B.

That’s high, according to Lisa Chase of the Sustainable Endowments Institute of Cambridge, Mass., which conducted the survey.

“No one received an A. Only 26 received an A minus. A grade of B is considered a sustainability leader,” she said.

The annual survey is done to encourage colleges and universities to
adopt sustainable practices. “And it demonstrates the importance of
environmental impact,” Chase said. Steps taken by colleges and
universities are great ways to demonstrate to towns or cities what they
could do.

Bates College spokesman Bryan McNulty responded Wednesday, saying the while the survey methodology is always a question, the report card “does give us some good grades for Bates’ very intentional efforts to enhance environmental sustainability.”

Bates’ leadership in environmental action was recognized in the 2009 Princeton Review, which ranked it among the top 15 schools in terms of environmental friendliness. Bates also appeared on Sierra magazine’s third annual list of the 20 greenest colleges and universities, McNulty said.

The report card highlights that Bates spends 28 percent of its food budget locally, buying from 37 Maine growers. The college’s dining services diverts 82 percent of its waste from landfills. “So much that it doesn’t even need a dumpster,” McNulty said.

Bates requires new construction to meet LEED Silver specifications, such as including low-flow plumbing and storm water retention tanks, to ensure green building certification.

Bates also offers community bicycles for students, uses the “Zipcar”
car-sharing program and employees participate in the statewide
ride-share program, McNulty said. “And one of the themed campus houses was requested and filled by students with a great interest in sustainable practices,” he said.

Other grades given to area colleges in the survey released Wednesday include:

Colby, B plus; Bowdoin, B; College of the Atlantic, A minus; the University of Maine, C plus; the University of New Hampshire, A minus.

The survey graded nine categories to compute the overall grade.

Bates received four A’s, in administration, food and recycling, student involvement and transportation; three B’s, for energy efficient projects; one D, for endowment transparency; and one F, for shareholder engagement.

The separate categories are on the survey to encourage colleges and universities to invest in ways that encourage sustainability, make those investment choices public, and to encourage the campus to have a say in how money is invested, Chase said.

“Some schools allow students and faculty to have a say on where the shares are going,” she said.

The few low grades doesn’t mean Bates isn’t investing in a green way, she said, “but how do we know?”

Many colleges have endowments managed by outside groups and often how those investments are made are not public, she said. “This is the most challenging area for most schools to change if they don’t have a transparency policy.” For instance, Harvard got an overall grade of A minus, “and still only a C in endowment transparency.”

Bates makes a list of endowment holdings by investment category available to trustees and senior administrators, but the college does not manage its endowment in-house, McNulty said. The policy on social investment assumes investments are made only if the company or issuer reasonably conforms to the green guidelines, he said.

Nationally, colleges and universities have taken more environmental action in the last year, both at wealthy and public schools. “Harvard and the University of New Hampshire got the same grade of A minus,” Chase said.

Colleges are demonstrating that being environmentally sustainable “is not only good for the planet, they’re saving money on energy . . . It’s a win win,” she said.

To view more grades visit www.greenreportcard.org.

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