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Frequently Asked Questions


What is sustainability and why should I care about it on my campus?

Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


College and universities, as leaders of innovation in our society, have the potential to demonstrate sustainable principles in their campus operations and endowment policies. Their examples can provide a road map for others to follow.


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What is the College Sustainability Report Card ?

The College Sustainability Report Card is the only comparative evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities in the United States and in Canada. In contrast to an academic focus on sustainability in research and teaching, the Report Card examines colleges and universities, as institutions, through the lens of sustainability.


The Report Card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leaders in sustainability. The aim is to provide accessible information for schools to learn from each other's experiences and establish more effective sustainability practices.


The College Sustainability Report Card 2011  has the highest participation rate of any sustainability ranking or rating, with 291 of 322 schools (90 percent) responding to at least one Report Card survey.


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What is the Sustainable Endowments Institute?

The Sustainable Endowments Institute is a nonprofit organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices. The College Sustainability Report Card and GreenReportCard.org are initiatives of the Institute.


Founded in 2005, the Institute is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Please see About SEI for more information.


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How does the Report Card compare to other sustainability ratings/rankings?

Unlike "top green school" lists produced by many publications and organizations, GreenReportCard.org is the first interactive website to provide in-depth sustainability profiles for hundreds of colleges in all 50 U.S. states and in Canada.


Information is based on extensive independent research and survey responses conducted for the College Sustainability Report Card .


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Why is a certain college missing from the list?

The College Sustainability Report Card 2010 evaluates the 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada with the largest endowments plus 22 schools that applied for inclusion. If a school does not appear on the list, it has not met this threshold or applied for inclusion. Please refer to Methodology for more information on the selection process.


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Can I have my school added to the Report Card ?

Yes. We have created a program to allow any school to participate in the Report Card . Learn more.



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How can I share this information with my friends and colleagues?

Use the "share" feature located in the upper right corner of all school profile pages to forward information to friends, to post it on Facebook, or to add it to other social networking websites.


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How is information in the Report Card obtained?

Data collection for the Report Card comes from publicly available documentation, as well as through four surveys sent to school administrators and student leaders. In total, 308 of the 322 schools (over 96 percent) responded to at least one survey. Please refer to Methodology for more information.


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How are the nine category grades determined?

All 52 indicators used for grading are described in Indicators . Each school earns numerical points in proportion to its policies and practices for each indicator. A predetermined scale, based on points earned for the indicators, is then used to determine letter grades for each category. Please refer to Methodology for more information.


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How is the overall grade for a school determined?

The single letter grade is determined by a school's Grade Point Average (GPA) based on the nine equally-weighted categories. The GPA is based on a 4.0 scale (where A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, and F = 0).


The GPA is then translated into an overall sustainability grade, ranging from "A" to "F," using a standard grading scale. Please refer to  Methodology for more information.


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How can I help my school improve its overall performance on the Report Card ?

There are numerous ways to help. Please visit Get Involved to learn more about opportunities to become active. Many schools have sustainability coordinators, or similarly designated staff members, who can provide information about sustainability efforts at your school.


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What does it mean to be carbon neutral?

This is a designation recognizing that the activities of a person, a project, or an entire institution result in zero net carbon dioxide emissions.


Carbon neutrality can be achieved by increasing energy efficiency and improving energy conservation, as well as by using renewable energy either through on-site generation or the purchase of renewable energy credits.


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What is the Presidents Climate Commitment?

The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is a pledge, signed by institution presidents, to eliminate campus carbon emissions in the long term.


In the near term, they agree to to conduct a carbon emissions inventory and, within two years, to set a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral. Visit the Presidents Climate Commitment website for more information.


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What is LEED certification?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System provides green building guidelines for new building construction, major renovation projects, existing building operations, and other smaller construction projects.


The guidelines were created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). A building can be rated from “certified” to “platinum,” depending on the number of green measures implemented. Visit the LEED website for more information.


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What is an endowment?

An endowment is a fund that holds its principal in perpetuity, and only pays out a small portion per year (typically 4 to 5 percent). Endowment investments have dual goals: growth of principal (capital appreciation) and generation of income.


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How does endowment investment relate to sustainability?

Endowment investment decisions are an expression of universities' financial values and priorities. Schools that own stocks in corporations have shareholder rights and responsibilities, including the right to engage in constructive dialogue with corporate executives. In addition, they can vote and introduce shareholder resolutions, which are included in corporations' annual proxy statements.


Universities are substantial investors, with combined endowment assets of more than $325 billion. As such, they can be influential in improving corporate policies. Also, since endowments are comprised of diversified holdings, universities can optimize their returns while spurring improvement in energy efficiency and innovation in sustainable technology development.


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What is proxy voting and what are shareholder resolutions?

Proxy resolutions, also known as shareholder resolutions, provide a formal process for shareholders to request information and/or policy changes in corporations in which they invest.


Investors that have held at least $2,000 in company stock for a minimum of one year may submit a resolution for consideration by all shareholders of the company, most of whom vote by proxy (mail, web, fax). There are hundreds of shareholder resolutions submitted every year dealing with environmental, social and governance issues.


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Who funds the creation of the Report Card ?

Seven foundations and numerous individual donors provide the financial resources to create the Report Card. Find out which foundations underwrite the research by visiting the Supporters page.


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I have questions or suggestions. Where can I find contact information?

Please see the Contact page . Your questions and suggestions are important to us.


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