GV recognized as green school for third year in a row

GVL / Courtesy - harvesttotable.com

GVL / Courtesy – harvesttotable.com

Kayla Foster

Grand Valley State University was named one of the country’s greenest universities by the Sierra Club for the third year in a row.

“This award is great recognition of the hard work our faculty and staff have done,” said Anne Hiskes, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies.

GVSU is the highest ranked school in the state of Michigan.

“This signals us as a leader in West Michigan and in the state,” Hiskes said.

In order to participate, schools must fill out an extensive, online questionnaire about their sustainability practices.

The Sierra Club then ranks participating four-year undergraduate colleges and universities across the entire U.S. using a rubric which emphasizes the Sierra Club’s environmental priorities.

The Club’s goal is to act as a guide for prospective students who want to compare colleges based on the schools’ commitment to the environment. Their ranking also serves to create productive competition between colleges.

“The rankings are used in comparing for improvement with peer colleges,” said Norman Christopher, executive director of the Office of Sustainability Practices.

This year GVSU received a rank of 58th out of 173 schools nationwide.

“It’s a tribute to everybody across the university and to GVSU’s commitment to sustainability,” Hiskes said.

In 2007, sustainability was added to GVSU’s value statement, showing how serious the university is about going green.

“GVSU comes through on all its value statements,” Hiskes said.

Being included on the list of “Coolest Schools” by the Sierra Club is something GVSU has been striving toward for 10 years.

“The journey first starts with creating awareness,” Christopher said. “Then you have to define what sustainability really means.”

There are three major factors of sustainable development: environmental, social and economic.

By considering these factors while making decisions, GVSU strives to create a high quality of life for the current generation and those of the future.

To help, students can get involved in one of the many organizations on campus devoted to sustainability.

“Students have helped change our behavior here on campus,” Christopher said.

The Office of Sustainability Practices works with individual departments on campus to see what they can do better.

“We’re trying to create sustainability wherever you are (on campus),” Christopher said.

While GVSU used to have specific days for focusing on sustainability, that has all changed in the past couple of years.

“We used to do sustainability days or weeks,” Christopher said. “We don’t do that anymore because it’s a lifestyle now.”

Schools ranked by the Sierra Club are judged on items ranging from energy to planning to academics and research.

With the help of this ranking and grading scale, GVSU plans to offer a sustainability course next year for the first time ever.

GVSU is following in Grand Rapids’ footsteps, the city was named the most sustainable midsize city in the U.S. in 2010.

“This stuff works well here (at GVSU) because it fits well culturally,” Christopher said.

GVSU faculty and students work hard each day to help the university grow as a sustainable school.

“We’re all very excited about this continued recognition,” Hiskes said.

[email protected]