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Oberlin College Gets Highest Grade on Green Report Card

OBERLIN, OHIO – Oberlin College is 1 of just 15 schools to achieve the highest grade of A- on the new College Sustainability Report Card 2009, announced Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the Report Card’s publisher. Founded in 2005, the institute is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Oberlin received a B+ on the 2008 report card.

Oberlin received a grade of A in seven categories -- administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement—and Bs in only two -- transportation and endowment transparency. View the full Oberlin profile at http://greenreportcard.org/report-card-2009/schools/oberlin-college.

The average grade for all schools surveyed came to C+, with more than 75 percent of colleges and universities earning sustainability grades in the B and C range.

“Oberlin's commitment to environmental sustainability has been strengthening for many years, and our 2009 College Sustainability Report Card Grade is a testament to this fact,” says Nathan Engstrom, coordinator of Oberlin’s Office of Sustainability. “Being one of only 15 schools in the country and the only school in Ohio to earn their highest grade of A- is wonderful news and comes at a time when Oberlin is making exciting plans for its future that will strengthen our position even more.

“Over the next year we'll be developing a Climate Action Plan and setting a target date for carbon neutrality as part of our participation in the Presidents Climate Commitment,” Engstrom points out.  “As part of this climate action planning process, we'll be looking at possibilities for heating our campus with low or no-carbon fuel, developing and implementing a comprehensive energy management plan, and working with the city to investigate opportunities for purchasing or perhaps even generating additional renewable energy. We'll also look more closely at our transportation policies, begin finding ways to decrease the number of cars on campus, and offer incentives to people to walk and bike more.”

Budget-breaking energy costs combined with growing student activism are boosting the appeal of sustainability initiatives on college campuses across the country. The interactive GreenReportCard.org web site reveals that two out of three schools have improved their grades from last year in the new College Sustainability Report Card 2009.

“The College Sustainability Report Card is the only independent evaluation of sustainability in campus operations and endowment investments, and it has the highest response rate of any college sustainability ranking or rating,” said Orlowski. “We had 290 of 300 schools (97 percent) respond to at least one of the three Report Card surveys. Many are taking pride in greener campuses and sustainability savvy investments.”

The Sustainable Endowments Institute is a Cambridge-based nonprofit organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices. The institute receives funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, Kendall Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, among others.

“Making a commitment to sustainability, ranging from local food sourcing to renewable energy investments, is no longer a priority of only environmentalists,” said Orlowski. “Such innovations are capturing the attention of everyone, from college trustees to admissions applicants.”

Sixty-three percent of 10,300 college applicants recently polled by the Princeton Review said that a college’s commitment to the environment could affect their decision. "This website will help high school students make an educated college choice," said Orlowski.

In addition to Oberlin, other schools with top marks include Stanford and liberal arts colleges Carleton, Dickinson, and Middlebury. Ivy League schools made notable progress since last year, but not all Ivies were green enough to achieve the highest grade. Only five are among the top 15: Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Penn.

Media Contact:
Scott Wargo, 440-775-5197 / Scott.Wargo@oberlin.edu

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