Sustainability grade drops a letter

By Drew Teague

Students have received their midterm grades, and now UK has received a grade of its own in sustainability — and the grade did some backtracking from last year.

The Sustainable Endowments Institute released its annual College Sustainability Report Card for 2011 on Wednesday, and UK received a C+ for its overall grade. Last year UK received a B-.

The report card is broken up into nine categories and compiled into an overall score for the university.

Susan Paykin, director of communications at the Sustainable Endowments Institute, said the report card is used to help showcase what schools are doing well, what needs to be improved ßand how they can improve those by what others are already doing.

“The report card is an evaluation of a campus sustainability initiative,” Paykin said. “The goal of the report card is to highlight schools that are excelling in certain areas and to provide a forum to share best practices so that schools can learn from each other.”

A UK representative was not reached by print time.

According to the report card, UK received a D in the area of Climate Change and Energy, its worst scoring area. Paykin said this was because the university has not redone its inventory on how much greenhouse gas emissions it produces in several years.

“First we’re looking at it as if the school is keeping a greenhouse gas inventory. I see that the University of Kentucky has an inventory and it was in 2006. There hasn’t been an updated one since then,” Paykin said. “So just by keeping an inventory up to date, that would be a big boost to the report card grade.”

Paykin said another way to improve that section would be to invest in renewable energy resources and stay away from things like coal.

“Another thing that a lot of schools are investing in is renewable energy on campus,” Paykin said. “Whether its small-scale installation of solar panels to getting the schools own wind turbine.”

The grade for the report card is compiled through surveys sent out over the summer to various people associated with the university. Four surveys are sent out:  endowment, campus, dining and student.

“Our research is primarily based on four surveys,” Paykin said. “We also do conduct independent research, and that’s based on what kind of information is made available to the public online.”

Paykin said the university might have received a lower grade this year because of several reasons, including how the institute graded.

“In 2010 the University of Kentucky scored an overall grade of a B-,” Paykin said. “It did have a drop in the overall score. We have also expanded our grading criteria this year … to hold schools to a higher standard.”

To improve the university’s overall grade, Paykin said 56 percent of reporting universities said they had a full time employee working in a sustainability office. She said this helps raise the score by having one person focused on the different categories and getting them improved.

“A lot of schools have taken that on in terms of really institutionalizing their commitment to sustainability,” Paykin said.

For more information on UK’s score, visit, (