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MIT wins plaudits for environmental policies

MIT has achieved national recognition for developing an environmentally sustainable campus, according to the first national survey of college and university environmental practices conducted by the National Wildlife Federation.

"State of the Campus Environment: A National Report Card on Environmental Performance and Sustainability in Higher Education" says many schools are embracing sound environmental practices while others are due for environmental remediation.

The report, based on findings from 891 colleges and universities, provides green grades for more than 20 categories ranging from curriculum to transportation.

MIT was recognized as a "leading school" for doing more with energy efficiency and conservation; recycling, solid waste and materials flow; and transportation programs.

"It is gratifying to receive this national recognition of MIT's past and present campus environmental efforts," said Jamie Lewis Keith, MIT's senior counsel and managing director for environmental programs and risk management. "However, even as we gratefully accept this recognition, we must acknowledge that we have much work to do to meet our own high standards. The continuing efforts of every constituency of our community are necessary to sustain our initial accomplishments and to make even more progress toward a greener campus."

A national report card on environmental performance and sustainability in higher education gave the institutions surveyed:

  • "A-" overall for energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy efforts such as recycling, reducing consumption and waste.
  • "A" for water efficiency upgrades such as installing efficient toilets, showerheads and faucets.
  • "B-" for conserving water when landscaping, limiting applications of pesticides and planting native trees and shrubs.
  • "C+" for environmental lessons in the classroom. Half the schools surveyed have programs supporting faculty's professional development on environmental topics and 43 percent offer programs in environment studies, yet many students graduate without achieving basic environmental literacy.
  • "C-" for reducing congestion and pollution associated with travel to and from campus through transportation initiatives.

The Environmental Programs Task Force, which Keith sponsors, includes Procurement; Dining Services; the Copy Technology Centers; Facilities; the Environmental, Health and Safety Office; the Office of the Executive Vice President; the Publishing Services Bureau; the Campus Activities Complex; Residential Life and Student Life Programs; and students from Save A Vital Earth and Professor Jeffrey Steinfeld's freshman advising seminar. The collaborative efforts of the task force and the Working Group on Recycling, which includes support staff from many MIT departments, "are key to the success of our expanded 'green campus' programs," Keith said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 19, 2001.

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