The University of New Mexico received a "B" for the third year in a row in the Sustainable Endowments Institute's Green Report Card. UNM Office of Sustainability officials believe that grading organizations, such as the Green Report Card, are not truly indicative of the strides the university is making to reduce its environmental impact. This year was the first time UNM did not submit new information to the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
According to UNM Sustainability Program Specialist Mary Clark, UNM did not participate in the survey for the 2011 Green Report Card.
"The information gathered was from new releases and websites, so it is not complete nor entirely accurate. Evaluation of sustainability at UNM should not be based on a letter grade, but rather on the continuing efforts and dedication of the staff, faculty and students towards the goals outlined in our Climate Action Plan," she said.
UNM, through Clark, was among more than 70 universities to sign an open letter to various sustainability evaluation groups expressing concern about the lack of consistency in the methods they use to compare universities, as well as a recent move by the Sustainable Endowments Institute to charge universities $700 to fill out the survey, which had previously been free. UNM also had concerns about other ranking organizations not including UNM's information as part of their results, or ranking the university lower than expected.
"Last spring I began a discussion with other sustainability officers at universities around the country regarding the many requests the UNM Office of Sustainability gets to evaluate our sustainability initiatives in comparison to others," Clark said.
She added that after completing many questionnaires, UNM was often not included in the publications or rated as highly as she believed was deemed. "I found that many others felt the same way so we decided to opt out of all external evaluations," she said.
These concerns motivated Clark and others in the UNM Office of Sustainability to focus more on what the university should be doing to become a more sustainable institution, instead of what is reported to outside institutions. Clark recently submitted a second greenhouse gas inventory for UNM's main campus to the American College and University President Climate Commitment which showed a 19 percent reduction in the university's carbon emissions.
Members of the Office of Sustainability are currently working with the university's branch campuses to complete an inventory of the greenhouse gases each produces and creating climate actions plans for each. The department is also finishing the university's strategic sustainability plan, and providing support and information for student projects and updating the UNM community.
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