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September 24, 2008

Stanford scores high for sustainability in national study

Recyclers and energy misers: Job well done. Stanford has scored in the top tier of the most recognized nationwide study of sustainability practices on college campuses.

Only 15 of the 300 colleges and universities studied—Stanford among them—earned the title "overall college sustainability leaders" in this year's College Sustainability Report Card. The report is released annually by the Sustainable Endowments Institute in Cambridge, Mass.

Stanford was the only California school among the top 15. Other notable schools on the list were Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn and Brown from the Ivy League, plus Colorado and Washington from the West. All the schools in the top 15 received an overall grade of "A-."

"Today we celebrate the university's success in this effort thus far, and we are excited about the opportunity to continue working together tomorrow as there are many great things still to accomplish," said Joseph Stagner, Stanford's executive director of sustainability and energy management."

Sustainability is loosely defined as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." In the report card, sustainability is broken down into categories such as climate change and energy, food and recycling, transportation and green buildings.

Stanford received an "A" in administration, up a letter grade from last year. The report card took notice of the new sustainability and energy department, as well as sustainability employees in other areas, such as project management and residential and dining enterprises.

"A" grades were also given for food and recycling (grass-fed local beef and cage-free eggs in dorm kitchens), green buildings (energy savings beyond existing guidelines) and student involvement, including the new green fund for student sustainability grants.

In transportation, the mark was a "B," despite the school's aggressive program of alternative transportation. Stagner said he was puzzled by the grade.

Climate change and energy was also graded "B." The university is working on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; in the meantime, the report card commended efforts to reduce energy use, from large scale retrofits to smaller scale renewable projects, such as the solar panels recently added to Hoover House, the official residence of Stanford presidents.

Stanford received a "C" on endowment transparency. As with many other private schools, Stanford does not make public the specific investments of its endowment fund. But in a related category, investment priorities, the university received an "A" for investing in renewable energy funds or similar investment vehicles. There was also an "A" for shareholder engagement, for the school's policy of proxy voting for environmental initiatives.

The Sustainability Report Card team studied the 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada with the largest endowment funds. The Sustainable Endowments Institute is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.



Dan Stober, Stanford News Service: (650) 721-6965,


Joe Stagner, Executive Director, Sustainability and Energy Management: (650) 721-1888,

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