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Three Georgia campuses among greenest in nation: Emory, Spelman, West Georgia

Emory University, Candler Library

A 30 percent reduction in water consumption at Candler Library helped Emory University earn a 28th ranking on a green campus program sponsored by "Sierra" magazine. Credit: musiclibraryassoc.org

By David Pendered

Three higher ed campuses in Georgia rank among the greenest schools in the nation, according to the ninth annual rankings of colleges and universities released Tuesday by Sierra magazine.

Emory University, Candler Library

A 30 percent reduction in water consumption at Candler Library helped Emory University earn a 28th ranking on a green campus program sponsored by “Sierra” magazine. Credit: musiclibraryassoc.org

The Georgia schools and their rankings, out of a pool of 153 schools, on a scale of 1 to 1,000 points, are:

  • Emory University – rank, 28; score, 712.1 ;
  • Spelman College – rank, 131; score, 458.95;
  • University of West Georgia – rank, 141; score, 396.29.

The whole point of the rankings is to inform students about the sustainability efforts conducted on various campuses, and to promote sustainability on campus. According to a Sierra FAQ page:

  • “Q: Why do you rank schools on greenness?
  • “A: We hope that our annual ranking will act as a guide for prospective students who want to compare colleges based on the schools’ commitment to environmentalism. Our ranking also serves to spur productive competition between colleges, raise eco-standards on campus, and publicly reward the institutions that work hard to protect the planet.”

Participation is in the rankings program is voluntary and open to all four-year colleges and universities in the country.

Spelman College

Spelman College was ranked the nation’s 131st greenest campus in part because of curriculum offerings on sustainability. Credit: http://spelmanstudentlife.orgsync.com

Here are some highlights of the self-reported information from each of Georgia’s three ranked schools:

Emory on its green buildings:

  • “A closed-loop laser system helps the Math and Science Center save 2.8 million gallons of water per year. Water use in Candler Library has been reduced by 30 percent. Low-flow fixtures in the Goizueta Business School reduced water use by 20 percent. Cisterns also capture storm water and condensate from air handling units for irrigation. Water-saving fixtures at the Winship Cancer Institute Center reduced water use by 24 percent.”

Spelman on its education offerings:

  • “The goal is to incorporate sustainability in at least one and preferably two required general education courses and require students to take courses introducing sustainability concepts. Since 2009, sustainability was infused in African Diaspora and the World (ADW). Future plans include expanding the sustainability content in the ADW 111 & 112 (8 credits). We received funding from the USEPA Region 4 to assist the incorporation of sustainability into First Year Experience course.”

West Georgia on its education offerings:

University of West Georgia

University of West Georgia was ranked the nation’s 141st greenest campus in part because of its nursing curriculum, which promotes environmentally sound practices. Credit: gowestgeorgia.com

  • “Lastly, the EdD (doctorate of education) in nursing education students, as future nursing educational change agents, will engage themselves within the higher education community to promote activities and systems that are economically stable, environmentally sound, and socially just. Further, the students will function as change agents not only within the higher educational community but also the global community as ethical civic leaders who can impact sustainable global communities.”

This year, 153 schools entered and all 153 were ranked.

To participate, college administrators completed a STARS questionnaire. STARS is operated by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education).

STARS stands for Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. It’s a trademarked, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance, according to the website.

Here’s how the rankings work:

A total of 1,000 points can be earned. About 70 categories are represented.

The scoring key for this year’s program starts out with a series of seven-point questions. Schools can receive up to seven points for peer-to-peer sustainability program for all students. Schools can receive seven points for featuring sustainability topics during orientation.

Big points are availability for sustainable buildings and operating practices. For instance:

  • 45 points – renewable energy sources;
  • 40 points – energy consumption in buildings. Schools win points by calculating total building energy consumption, and by meeting or exceeding a standard reduction of 7 percent per year since their identified baseline period;
  • 40 points – water consumption. Schools earn 20 points by showing any reduction in consumption since a baseline period, and more points by reducing consumption based on how close they come to reducing by 7 percent from the baseline year;
  • 40 points – storm water management. Varying points award based on the extent of mitigation programs.
  • 40 points – innovation. Varying points available based on sustainability innovations.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Inan Hulin Thurmond August 14, 2015 8:56 am

    Kudos to Spelman. Just a little HBCU love for SpelmanitesReport


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