For the second year in a row, Brown has received an A- on the College Sustainability Report Card, which compares the environmental practices of 300 colleges and universities nationwide.
The 2010 report, which was released last week by the Sustainable Endowments Institute and refers to the year ending July 2009, places Brown among the top 23 schools in the country for sustainability. Brown earned straight As in seven categories, including green building, investment priorities and "food and recycling." The Community Harvest Program, LEED Silver buildings, and greenhouse gas reductions were highlighted as examples of demonstrated leadership. Brown earned only two Bs, one for Administration and the other for Endowment Transparency.
"This is nice validation," said Kai Morell, '11, a leader of EcoReps, a student group focused on environmental initiatives.
"It's nice to have maintained our grade," said Christopher Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives.
While the University's overall grade held steady at an A-, its grades in individual categories improved. The biggest jump was in the Climate Change and Energy category, where last year's B became an A.
The report cited the University's commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent below 2007 levels by 2020 — and its achievement of a 7.7 percent reduction so far — as the basis for the grade.
"Last year, we had goals," Powell said, of emissions reductions. "This year, we had results."
The other improvement was seen in the Endowment Transparency category, which was given a C last year and a B this year.
In the 2010 report, Brown received only one other B, for Administration. In determining the Administration grade, the Sustainable Endowments Institute awards a sizable boost to schools that have committed to carbon neutrality — which Brown has not yet agreed to do.
"Most schools that signed have no clue how to achieve that goal," Powell said, explaining
Brown's decision to forgo the commitment to carbon neutrality. Instead, he said, Brown set its own emissions reduction goal.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute relies on surveys distributed to administrators and students to compile information, and then makes comparisons between schools based on a list of 48 criteria. No school has ever earned an A overall.
This year the surveys were far longer and more detailed. But there are still questions about the validity of the letter grades.
"This needs to be taken with a grain of salt," Ari Rubenstein '11, one of emPower's leaders, said. "If we're already at an A-, there must be something higher than an A."