Top Score for Sustainability

USF is the only university in Florida named to the Princeton Review's annual "Green Rating Honor Roll."

Special to USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 20, 2013) — The University of South Florida is one of just 22 colleges and universities in the nation — and the only one in Florida — to earn a spot on The Princeton Review's 2014 Green Rating Honor Roll recognizing excellence in sustainability-related practices, policies, and academic offerings.

The project, now in its sixth year, measures how environmentally friendly the nation's higher education institutions are on a scale of 60 to 99. For its latest survey, the company tallied the scores from 832 campuses; USF is among the mere two percent to receive the highest possible score of 99.

Photo courtesy of Patel College of Global Sustainability

"The schools on our Green Rating Honor Roll demonstrated truly exceptional commitments to sustainability across key issues we looked at, from course offerings and recycling programs to plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We salute their administrators, faculty, and students for their collective efforts to protect and preserve our environment," said Princeton Review Senior Vice President and Publisher Robert Franek, noting the increasing interest among students in attending "green" colleges.

In a 2013 poll of 9,955 college applicants, The Princeton Review found 62 percent expressing the view that having information about a given college's commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend that school.

Consequently, the company maintains a dedicated resource area on its Web site for students interested in attending a green college. There, users can download "The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition" — the only free, comprehensive guidebook to the nation's most environmentally responsible colleges.

Developed in 2007 in association with ecoAmerica, a non-profit environmental organization, judging criteria for The Princeton Review’s "Green Rating" broadly cover three areas including whether a school’s students have a campus quality of life that is healthy and sustainable, how well a school is preparing its students for employment and citizenship in a world defined by environmental challenges, and each institution's overall commitment to environmental issues.

More specifically, colleges are scored on whether they offer mass transit programs and/or promote and facilitate bicycle and pedestrian access, have a formal committee (with participation from students) that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus, feature buildings that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, offer an environmental studies major, minor or concentration, and have formal plans to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The survey also includes questions about the percentage of energy consumption that is derived from renewable resources and whether a school employs a dedicated full-time sustainability officer, which in USF's case is Kebreab Ghebremichael, director of the Office of Sustainability.

He characterized USF's highest possible green rating score as "a great achievement and honor for USF, reflecting both the commitment made by university leadership and the hard work of students, faculty, and staff to turn the campus into a living laboratory where research, education, and active involvement in the Student Green Energy Fund and other initiatives are moving USF toward the goal of being carbon neutral."

Indeed, in selecting USF for its Green Rating Honor Roll, The Princeton Review congratulated the university for making sustainability a central part of both its strategic planning and mandatory core curriculum. It also cited the university's hosting a yearly Green Jobs Fair as well as 18 environmental student groups including Emerging Green Builders and Engineers for a Sustainable World.

"Making the Princeton Review Honor Roll so soon after being recognized in the journal Nature bolsters USF’s national reputation for having one of the most innovative and comprehensive programs on sustainability," added Kala Vairavamoorthy, dean of the Patel College of Global Sustainability, noting that this latest acclamation extends a growing list of honors the university has garnered for its many environmental initiatives.

In May 2012, USF received the Second Nature Climate Leadership Award recognizing the best examples of how institutions of higher education are shifting behavior on campus and within communities in favor of a clean and sustainable future. Presented on behalf of the nearly 700 institutions endorsing the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, it is regarded as the highest accolade for sustainability efforts in higher education.

Also in 2012, USF was named among the country's Top 12 "Cool Schools" by SIERRA magazine.