Over the last two years, the University has increasingly emphasized its desire to be a sustainable college, but because GW failed to fill out a survey provided by the Princeton Review, GW was not recognized on the list of most sustainable colleges. This absence is an embarrassment for GW, and is also an indicator of the need for an increased role for the Office of Sustainability.
Not being included on the list of the 286 Green Colleges is disconcerting because the rankings represent a chance for the University to publicize its efforts to be sustainable. Though the error may have been the result of a miscommunication between the Office of Admissions and the Office of Sustainability, GW missed an opportunity to highlight its hard work. It also draws attention to the current role of the Office of Sustainability and its resources.
As it stands, the Office of Sustainability has three employees, according to the office’s website. Created in the fall of 2008, the office is tasked with implementing the suggestions of the Task Force on Sustainability while working to create a climate neutrality plan.
Though the University has vocalized sustainability is a priority, not enough has been done to make the Office of Sustainability the principle driving force for environmental action on campus. The University took a good step with the proposed GW Climate Action Plan, which will initially have $2 million in its revolving source of funds for green projects. But having financial resources and goals will not be enough if GW wants to become and be seen as a sustainable school. Now the financial support is in place, the Office of Sustainability needs to grow so it can become more effective.
Once the office increases its staff, director Meghan Chapple-Brown needs to focus her staff on becoming a visible player in the green movement across campus. As of now, the office is able to make suggestions about sustainable projects, but it lacks the designated power to implement even minor changes. University administrators need to grant the Office of Sustainability the ability to follow through on its ideas.
It is disappointing that GW was not recognized as a green school on the Princeton Review’s list, but with the right changes, GW will be able to emerge on the list next year. We hope along with the money in the Climate Action Plan, an increase in personnel within the Office of Sustainability will further GW’s plans for environmental change.
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