There are many factors Mills College bases its reputation on: strong academics, engaging professors, a beautiful campus and a strong social justice initiative are among them. In recent years, something else the College focuses its advertising and outreach materials on is its “green” credentials. Mills has made many sustainable initiatives, including buying local and organic food, supplying compostable and reusable dishware in the Tea Shop and Cafe Suzie, placing recycling bins in dorms rooms, and designing new green buildings to ensure LEED certification.
But while the College publicizes the fact that Mills received a 92 out of a 99 green rating from the Princeton Review, not every environmental-friendliness indicator bears the same result. The College Sustainability Report Card, whose information can be found at Greenreportcard.org, is one such certified index based on a survey completed by architectural assistant Brian Harrington. In 2009 Mills received a C rating, and while it rose to a B- in 2010, our performance is still only average at best.
The College scores well in most areas of environmental evaluation, receiving an A in student involvement, green building, administrative support and food and recycling. We were also awarded a B in transportation. But then things go down hill – a C in investment priorities and climate change and energy and an F in the areas of endowment transparency and shareholder engagement.
It is interesting to note Mills received the best grades in the areas that most directly involve students and staff, those that are visible for anyone to directly bear witness. The aspects of the report card that have to do with the sustainable decisions from officials and the college’s infrastructure are not as highly rated. Why is this? Is Mills doing what it needs to do to be environmentally friendly only in the public eye?
Similarly, Mills ranked among the top four schools in composting during RecycleMania, but ranked 116th in waste minimization.
While we are doing some things very well, there are many improvements that should be made. And not just in those overall areas of these indicators – energy conservation, carbon reduction, shareholder voting and transparency in investment decisions – but also getting rid of toxic pesticides, better waste management and college-wide green purchasing policies. Instead of touting only what we do well, we should be committed to doing better in all areas of the college.