Living green good for campus, flagship aspirations

To earn flagship status, a school must meet a number of requirements, including having a nationally competitive faculty and student body. It must also receive significant research funding and produce impactful new discoveries. Finally, it must prove it has enough alumni-driven financial support to ensure its competitiveness.

These are the formal requirements. However, a close look at the state’s current flagship universities suggests that there may be some unwritten rules for schools seeking flagship status. For example, all three flagship schools in Texas have sustainability programs to help reduce their negative impact on the environment.

The Campus Sustainability Task Force was created last fall with the immediate goal of becoming educated about environmental sustainability, and in turn, disseminating that knowledge to the student body to create a new eco-friendly culture on campus.

So far, the UH Campus Sustainability Task Force has done a commendable job. On its 2010 College Sustainability Report Card, GreenReportCard.org gave UH an overall grade of ‘B-‘ for its conservation work.

Every year, GreenReportCard.org researches hundreds of colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, and rates them with its sustainability report cards. UH’s score was a full grade point higher than it was on the 2009 report card.

The judges awarded UH high marks for food and recycling, and specifically noted the University’s dining program, which reduced waste by 45 percent by eliminating the use of trays. In probably the most important category, student involvement, UH received a ‘B,’ for which the whole student body should be proud. The judges applauded the campus garden, as well as the 300 recycling bins around campus, which were a direct result of student efforts to advance recycling.

UH’s green buildings, transportation system and administration all scored well. The judges made a special mention of the Campus Sustainability Task Force, which produced a guide titled ‘Living Green at the University of Houston.’

Every Cougar should check out the guide online at http://www.uh.edu/af/greenUH/greenbooklettest.pdf,’ which is a brief, easy-to-read booklet with tips on energy conservation, recycling, green commuting and waste minimization.

Although all the tips are useful, some are common knowledge, such as turning off lights when leaving a room. But the Metropolitan Transit Authority map in the booklet, as well as the green dining information, are more specifically helpful to UH students.

Although becoming a flagship university would be great for UH and the city of Houston, making the UH campus more environmentally friendly is its own reward. While the fate of our collegiate ranking ultimately rests in others’ hands, our school’s sustainability for the future is up to us.

Let’s use those recycling bins. Let’s eat without a tray and finish all our food. Let’s volunteer to work in the garden or even start another one. There’s no reason we can’t get that ‘A’ on next year’s report card.

Jared Luck is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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