Fordham Environmentally Unfriendly for Third Year in a Row, Continues with New Initiatives


Published: March 12, 2009

Fordham University is not an environmentally friendly school, according to the College Sustainability Report Card released earlier this year.  The report, which refers to the 2007-2008 school year, gave Fordham a C- overall ranking—only half a grade higher than its D for 2006-2007. Some administrators, however, say that the scores do not fully reflect Fordham’s efforts and that the University is fully committed to becoming as “green” as possible while not increasing tuition.

The report, released every year by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, grades 300 universities in the United States and Canada and is divided into categories that take into consideration how the school is combating climate change, administration involvement, student participation and campus transportation.

In the past year, Fordham has increased its grade in the “Green Building” category, which takes into account the environmental impact campus buildings have, from an F for 2006-2007 to a B for 2007-2008. Fordham also increased its score in the “Administration” category, which measures the cooperation among university officials to implement green measures, from a D to a C. According to the University’s Sustainability Policy, Fordham is currently working on increasing its environmental standards.

The policy, available on Fordham’s Web site, lays out a plan for the future that involves measures to decrease waste and to increase green space. According to the policy, “the University recognizes the value of minimizing its environmental impact and endeavors to pursue best practices throughout all aspects of its operations.”

According to Marc Valera, associate vice president of facilities management for Fordham University, the College Sustainability Report is “a little unfair.” He said, “I tend to reject the assessment since it doesn’t take into account what we’re really doing here at Fordham.”

Valera said, “[The report] is just an assessment based on a written account of what we are doing—no data is taken into consideration,” Valera said. “As you can see, we’re in good company… there are a lot of universities with low scores.”

Valera said that though Fordham’s scores are low, the university is doing “everything it can” to “get the best bang out of its buck.” He continued, “If we had more resources, and spent more money like some of the larger universities in the report, we’d have a higher score. But we are trying to be environmentally friendly while not incurring costs that will essentially trickle down to the students,” Valera said. “We have nowhere to go for the money, and we’re committed to keeping the students’ costs low.”

Valera outlined a number of initiatives Fordham is taking to increase its environmental sustainability. “The University’s main focus is on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a main focus for the next five to 10 years. We are fully committed to Mayor Bloomberg’s challenge to reduce emissions to 30 percent by 2017,” he said.

“We’re addressing recycling and renewable resources on both campuses. We have completely revisited our entire recycling policy. We’ve added more [recycling] stations, and we’ve increased signage as well,” Valera said. “The whole program is being reinvigorated.”

According to Valera, Fordham is converting many campus vehicles, not including the Ram Vans, to electric power. Though Ram Vans may seem   inefficient, Valera said, they actually are quite the opposite.

“They are a very efficient way to transport people. When you look at carbon emissions per passenger, the Ram Vans are much more environmentally friendly than other options. Though, when a more efficient technology is created that will be as efficient as the vans, we will certainly look into it. Right now, it simply does not exist,” he said.

One of the biggest projects that Fordham is currently undertaking, Valera said, is redesigning the way Fordham heats its buildings.

“We use three boiler plants on the Rose Hill campus to produce steam to heat our buildings there.  For Lincoln Center, we buy the steam from Con-Edison. These boilers use a heavy oil that produces a lot of greenhouse gasses. We are in the process, by using state funds, to convert these boilers to natural gas, reducing emissions by 30 percent,” Valera said.

As for the future, including Fordham’s plans for the expansion of Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), Valera said that the University is committed to using “the greenest designs possible.”

“The amount of energy consumption [in all new buildings on Fordham’s campus] is designed to be 40 percent less than what the current New York City codes call for,” he said.

Most agree that in order to become fully green, Fordham must have support from not only staff, but students as well. Ann Marie Dorr,  FCLC ’11, said that while she admires Fordham’s plans, being green “isn’t [her] top priority.”

“I try to stay considerate of the environment because I grew up with parents that enforced it to an extent,” Dorr said. “I was taught about recycling and reusing at a young age, so I carry it with me. But my roommates and I don’t always make a lot of conscious environmental decisions. We have other things at the forefront of our minds.”

Steven Rey, FCLC ’11, said that he thinks Fordham does a good job being environmentally friendly. “The implementation of those electric hand driers in the restrooms are a good way to save energy and paper. The new trash receptacles in the hallways are very noticeable and definitely encourage recycling. And although people complain that we pay for printing, it is yet another way to save paper; it encourages students to double-check their work and think before printing that extra page,” Rey said.

The newly installed hand dryers, Valera said, are being funded by the university’s operating budget. “They are more efficient in that they eliminate paper waste,” Valera said.

Russell Dowling, FCLC ’11, said that he disagrees with Valera’s statement that the recycling program at Fordham is being “reinvigorated.” Dowling said, “The recycling in McMahon is terrible. I’m not sure why they think they need one bin for garbage, one for glass and one for plastic, but that’s just not how it works. They’re completely neglecting aluminum and papers, which are a huge part of McMahon recycling. They should definitely try to improve this.”

Fordham’s accountability statement and outline for current and future environmental initiatives is available on the University Web site.