Most of the time, failing grades are handed out after the school year begins. GW, however, will start the year off with an “F” in environmental sensitivity from the Sierra Club.
In the most recent issue of their magazine, the environmental organization called GW out for “failing to implement policies to fight climate change” (“GW sustainability earns failing grade,” p. 1), citing GW’s lack of concrete policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build greener buildings or encourage the use of public transportation.
Admittedly, the University’s progress to date on environmental sustainability is far worse than would be expected of a school of this caliber. In past years, sustainability has barely been on the radar for the administration, much less a top priority. But the Sierra Club’s failing grade misrepresents GW’s efforts to go green by ignoring the goals set this year.
University President Steven Knapp recently signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging to reduce GW’s environmental impact. Many of the University’s initiatives are less than a year old, and it is too early to condemn green progress.
Creation of an Office of Sustainability is a good start, and its programs will understandably take some time to implement. Still, tangible results must be forthcoming. Without them, the University will continue to incur doubt from environmental groups and the green movement at GW may lose momentum.
In order to sustain environmental efforts, it must be a University-wide commitment that begins with the students. The Office of Sustainability can ensure that buildings are environmentally compatible and can endorse efforts to get student Metro discounts, but they can only do so much. The administration can sign every green pact out there and create dozens of offices and task forces, and all of it will mean nothing if students continue to throw garbage in recycle bins or leave their lights on all night.