Students criticize UK carbon score

By McKenna Horsley [email protected]

For UK, it’s not easy being green. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System gave UK a silver rating for sustainability.

The university earned 43.25 percent of available points, along with two bonus points for innovation, which lifted UK out of the bronze category. The University of Louisville scored a total of 65.19 points, and Western Kentucky University scored 51.83 points.

“Through our focused and ongoing efforts, UK has made undeniable progress in creating a more sustainable campus and reducing emissions in a methodical way,” UK spokesman Jay Blanton wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel. 

Blanton said other colleges such as LSU, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have not signed the Second Nature Climate Action Plan, as Greenthumb, a student organization that promotes environmental substainabilty, advocated. 

“Like those campuses, we believe our ongoing efforts are — and should be — tailored to the specific needs and challenges of our campus,” Blanton said. 

Since 1993, Greenthumb has introduced programs such as the Environmental Stewardship Fee, which brings in $160,000 for various projects, according to biology, chemistry and mathematics senior Ricky Grewelle, Greenthumb’s representative on the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee.

The group has campaigned for years for UK to sign the Second Nature plan, which commits universities to reduce carbon impacts and move toward carbon neutrality.

“The mission of Second Nature was to establish a framework and accountability pact between universities,” Grewelle said. “A lot of universities have set a carbon neutrality date somewhere around 2050.” 

The University of Louisville has set a carbon neutrality date for 2050 and signed Second Nature’s commitment. 

Grewelle commended UK for some environmental efforts, but he said the university needs to continue improving.

“The people that follow us,  follow in our footsteps. I think it’s important to realize that if we don’t change our habits today, it could negatively impact our future,” Grewelle said. “I think Sustainability is one important way to strategically go about that.”

Correction: The original version of this article gave the incorrect year for the formation of UK GreenThumb. The group was founded in 1993, not 1990. In addition, the Environmental Stewardship Fee has brought in more than $160,000.