Mother Nature Network, an environmental news website, nominated the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point as one of ’17 amazing green colleges’ in the United States because of its energy-saving buildings and sustainability-focused programs.
It is unclear what criteria judges used to make the list, but the network cited a waste education center, a green roof on the library, rain gardens, solar panels and local food utilization as top reasons for UWSP’s recognition.
Other universities on the list include Columbia, Cornell and Stanford. The list comes at a convenient time for high school students who make decisions on college commitments during the spring. The network reported that about 60 percent of students who seek higher education evaluate universities’ environmental commitments.
“That wasn’t something I was looking for specifically,” said Molly O’Grady, wildlife ecology major.
O’Grady said she did not realize how environmentally friendly Stevens Point is until she began classes. She thinks advertising sustainability could bring in more students.
“Students should be looking at that when choosing a school,” O’Grady said. “I’m very proud of our university.”
Bobbi Kubish is director of the Student Success Center in the College of Natural Resources and is the coordinator of advising recruitment. She said prospective students she speaks with are most interested in the quality of education at UWSP, but environmental commitments are sometimes brought up. She tells students about getting involved and frequently mentions the waste education center.
“It’s one of the few programs in the nation,” Kubish said. “We should talk about it more.”
Dave Barbier, sustainability director, said many similar lists tend to be subjective when evaluating universities, but he is glad to see UWSP on the list, especially among prestigious schools.
“We as a university don’t really know what criteria they’re judging us on,” Barbier said. “They should be taken with a certain measure of salt.”
Barbier said diverse approaches toward sustainability are essential to success. He said the recognition highlights a range of efforts made by the university, which speaks to the triple bottom line.
The triple bottom line, Barbier said, is the notion that, “things are sustainable when they’re beneficial for the people, for the planet and are economically profitable.”
Each element of the philosophy supports the others, and meeting the demands increases the likelihood of success into the future.
The list is just one of many unofficial forms of recognition. In 2012, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recognized UWSP as having a gold level sustainability assessment. UWSP will submit for recognition again this year.
Barbier said that assessment and similar forms of recognition are more objective and should be taken more seriously.
“Those sorts of things definitely make us stand out,” Barbier said. “They pack more weight.”
Recognition for steps toward sustainability play a big role in continuing efforts, but Barbier said there is still room for improvement in terms of sustainability at UWSP.
“I think we’re different in a lot of ways and the same in others,” Barbier said. “It’s been a part of the campus culture for a long time to think about things more conscientiously.”