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Mills College’s overall green report card continues to improve, transparency still an issue

Mills received a B on the College Sustainability Report Card for 2011, a mark up from last year’s B- grade. The College Sustainability Report Card is an evaluation of Campus and endowment-supported sustainability activities. The report card is divided  into nine categories, from administration to shareholder engagement, and evaluates sustainability practices and policies in those categories.

Mills has been a part of the Green Report card for three years. Mills ratings have improved, earning a C in 2009, a B- in 2010 and a B for the current academic year, noted Britta Bullard, Sustainability and Recycling Coordinator. 

Bullard worked on the green report card, helping answer the campus survey over the summer. The survey, available online, includes about 80 questions on different aspects of on-campus sustainability, such as energy and water management and residential communities.

“I put a lot of time into talking with a lot of people about it, and I’m excited that we were able to have it all in one place; a good reference for people in the future,” said Bullard.

Bullard mentioned that Mills improved its transportation and student involvement. Her survey notes that students were more involved with sustainable choices through the student-run Re-Use Depot, that eco-representatives had been introduced in the dorms in order to create “green-dorm” educational materials, and a RecycleMania competition had been organized for students.

Mills transportation sustainability improved, too. That section was strengthened through a bomination of “environmentally-preferable commuting options” such as the 32-passenger shuttle bus, the AC transit EasyPass program and the U-share car sharing program, according to the survey. 

“Students have a lot within them to make a change,” said Bullard “You have to keep improving or else you get left behind.”

Bon Appetit’s General Manager Jason Landau filled out the dining survey of the Report Card. He felt good while filling out the survey and knew ways in which to improve.

“I believe we can improve our farm to fork station. Bon Appetit is big on sustainability,” Landou said, which he explained was one of the reasons why he chose to work for the company.

Both Bullard and Landau noted that Mills got a low score on the Endowment Transparency but neither were sure what it measured.

According to The College Sustainability Report Card website, the Endowment Transparency category evaluates how much information a school releases to the public about their investments.

Jamie Nickel, interim vice president for finance and treasurer, completed the section on endowment transparency. Nickel  was also unsure as to what endowment transparency had to do with sustainability, but she did have an idea of why it is important.

“It could be important if someone is investing in oil companies and then the public and students or constituents put pressure on the institution not to invest because it could harm the environment. As far as I know we don’t invest in oil, tobacco or alcohol,” Nickel said.

Nickel said that Mills does not manage the $170 million endowment, but rather relies on experts to figure out what to invest in. There are no specific details as to what exactly the investments are, but a well-qualified investment advisor, Capitol Hill, takes care of that, according to Nickel.

Campus architect Karen Fiene also helped Bullard with some sections of the report card.

“I think it’s very critical. We want to help students to adopt an education; an awareness. Our actions now affect other things and how we can alter our actions impact the outside community, city, state, and it all starts at home,” said Fiene.

An awareness of sustainability is beginning to grow and expand.

“Sustainability is being embraced and students are interested. It’s a good turnout because they get it; we don’t have unlimited resources. We need to conserve and live differently. We can do better in the future. Sometimes it’s a matter of how the report asked questions and how it was answered. A B is excellent for Mills,” Fiene said.