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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Princeton Review ranks MU among ‘greenest’ schools

Despite the honor, Sustain Mizzou said there is still more that can be done.

MU is described as a “sustainability rock star” in a new report from The Princeton Review.

The university is featured in the consulting company’s “2011 Guide to 311 Green Colleges.” The report highlights MU’s commitment to sustainability and increased student involvement on campus in recent years.

The Princeton Review began researching green schools after its annual survey showed significant student interest in learning about each college’s commitment to the environment. Three criteria went into the decisions: whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable, how well a school is preparing students for employment in the green economy and how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are.

“It’s fantastic they are recognizing all the effort that people have put in at Mizzou the past couple decades to address environmental issues,” Student Sustainability Adviser Ben Datema said. “Many people have been working very hard, and to see the Princeton Review acknowledging that is fantastic.”

The report mentioned, in particular, several programs that have brought major waste reduction to MU. Tiger Tailgate Recycling has saved more than 100 tons of recyclables from home football games during the past six years, according to the report.

It also notes that MU’s commitment to energy conservation has saved 20 percent of its energy costs during the past 20 years. MU has an ongoing goal to save an additional 1 percent each year.

The Mizzou Dashboard Project and MU’s Herpetological Society are listed as great student-led conservation organizations.

Datema, whose job is to focus on education and student involvement, said he was pleased with the report’s focus on MU’s substantial student involvement in sustainability initiatives.

He said he has a hard time even counting the number of student organizations that exist to address this issue.

“Sustainability on campus involves everyone and is a very cooperative endeavor,” Datema said. “It’s great to see how many people on campus add their perspective and insight to everything that we do. I know Campus Facilities is saying, ‘Every little bit helps. Thanks for doing your part.'”

Former Sustain Mizzou spokeswoman Kelly Gehringer said sustainability efforts have become more evident on college campuses in recent years. She said even though she is encouraged by MU’s inclusion on the list, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

“The differences that we could make with sustainable agriculture and local food," Gehringer said. "I think we’re doing well but we could do better."

Gehringer said although programs such as the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture are helping to increase sustainability, Campus Dining Services is not using enough food from local farmers. She would like to see local food integrated more into the dining halls. She said she wants the idea of eating locally to expand beyond a niche concept.

But she gives credit to CDS for keeping an open ear when speakers from the Real Food at Mizzou forum came to MU.

“To have campus dining in that dialogue is huge,” Gehringer said. “It means they’re open to it – they’re listening. There are definitely universities around the country with campus dining that would not even listen to that.”

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