University earns green praises, rankings

Earth Day brought the University accolades and new benchmarks, earning GW a spot in a national review of green colleges for its accelerated efforts to instill green practices and principles on campus.

The Princeton Review recognized GW as one of the “311 greenest colleges” in the nation, commending the University’s environmentally related policies, activities and academic offerings.?

“GW is thrilled to be included in this year’s Princeton Review Guide to 311 Green Colleges,” Sophie Waskow, stakeholder engagement coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said.

Waskow pointed to recent projects like GW’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions, the launch of the $2 million Green Campus Fund and the University’s commitment to install solar thermal systems on three residence halls as causes for making the list.

Last year, the University was left off the college ranking group’s list, after University administrators did not turn in the proper forms to be considered for inclusion.

This year, the report applauded GW for going “from zero to 60 in the last 2 years as it focuses on ramping up its sustainability efforts.” Since receiving a failing grade in sustainability from the Sustainable Endowments Institute in 2008, the University has intensified efforts to establish green spaces on campus, expanded courses and career options geared toward sustainability and outlined aggressive goals for reducing emissions.

“Over the last two years, we have set our goals for climate change and water, and now comes the challenge of meeting those goals,” Waskow said. “We need the whole GW community to do their part to reduce their carbon footprints, water footprints, in addition to the infrastructure investments that the University will make.”

University President Steven Knapp, who spearheaded a University-wide task force on sustainability two years ago, announced eight new goals to reduce GW’s water footprint Friday, introducing specific objectives for bottled water usage, permeable space and overall water consumption.

“People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of water conservation,” Knapp said, emphasizing the role of urban sustainability efforts in public health.

GW has made major strides in water conservation, reducing water use by 40 million gallons, over the last four years. The GWater strategy aims to reduce consumption by an additional 25 percent over the next 10 years.

To meet its goals, the University will test new water reclamation technologies on campus, including recycling retained rainwater for domestic use in greywater systems, cooling towers and irrigation. Other initiatives include increasing permeable space to improve stormwater quality and combating water pollution by eliminating contaminants in GW’s wastewater system.

Over the next five years, the University aims to decrease expenditures on bottled water by 50 percent while emphasizing alternative options for clean drinking water.

Meghan Chapple-Brown, director of GW’s Office of Sustainability, said she hopes surrounding schools will follow GW’s lead and assess their water footprints too.

Increasing sustainable practices and education at GW has been a priority for Knapp since he began his tenure as University president in 2007. Since then, GW has increased the number of courses offered that teach environmentally friendly practices and has created a roadmap to decrease GW’s carbon footprint over the next few decades.

“No other school in D.C. has a broader range of programs geared towards sustainability than GW. We are the main university in the area to adopt sustainability as a concerted focus,” Knapp said.

Like GW, Georgetown University focuses on water conservation, pollution reduction and bottled water campaigns. Meanwhile, American University’s efforts to reduce water consumption include rainwater collection, trayless dining and irrigation systems.

The University developed its water conservation goals in tandem with D.C. Water, Potomac Riverkeeper and GW faculty and staff.

This article was updated on April 25, 2011 to reflect the following:
The article originally stated that the University aims to decrease bottled water consumption by 50 percent over the next five years. The University’s goal is to decrease expenditures on bottled water by 50 percent.

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