Fordham 11 Percent More Sustainable


Published: April 15, 2010

In 2007, Fordham University pledged to reduce the school’s carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2017 as a part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlanNYC. The city-wide agreement plans to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 30 percent in the next 25 years. With seven years to go on its own promise, Fordham is nearly half-way there. By implementing cost-efficient energy reducing initiatives, the University has cut carbon emissions by 11 percent as of April 8.How does Fordham’s environmental sustainability compare to other schools nationally? Fordham University jumped from a C- to a C+ on the annual College Sustainability Green Report Card, released on Oct. 7, 2009. Released annually for the past four years by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a special project for the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; the report card is meant to measure how well a school meets its current needs without compromising the future needs of the institution. It currently grades over 330 institutions.

Rob Foley, a research fellow at the Sustainable Endowments Institute, said on the creation of the green report card, “There was both a need and an unfilled niche… there wasn’t a lot of comparative data. [The] grades foster a way for institutions to do internal review.”

The report card offers a comprehensive look at nine different factors that contribute to the school’s sustainability. From the administration (they got an A) to student involvement (we received a D) to endowment transparency (F), Fordham’s different factors and factions vary greatly. However, the overall theme is one of improvement.

Foley said, “Sometimes we hear [the report card] is a part of fostering conversations inside the decision-making circles within an institution of higher education… An improvement from a C- to a C+ is definitely an improvement. Those are real and tangible improvements.”
Marc Valera, the associate vice president for facilities management, said, “The methodology [of the report card] uses a lot of interpretation on their part. I take it with a grain of salt. I don’t think student involvement went down.”

Colin Cathcart, associate director of the environmental policy program at Fordham University, said, “This year we are working on engaging with student government and clubs to increase student involvement and awareness. After all, much of the environmental impact of the university is related to the environmental choices of its residents and attendees.”

Logan Weir, FCLC ’12, is the president and co-founder of the Fordham Environmental Club. “Our first plan is to clarify McMahon Hall recycling and eventually to work with Sodexo on reforming aspects of the cafeteria,” Weir said.

Gabriela Lawrowska, FCLC ’10 and an environmental policy minor, said, “I would like for Fordham to come up with a system for on-campus events where plastic cups and plates would not be allowable… If there is one place that needs extra [recycling] bins, it’s the [cafeteria].”

Weir said, “We’re planning on making the [FCLC] environment not just sustainable, but more enjoyable as well. This could include anything from murals to student cookouts and even a student garden, though plans such as these need lots of work before they can be realized.”

“The Fordham staff has been more than helpful with all of this, and we hope to reach out to the student body by simultaneously making the campus more beautiful and more efficient,” Weir said.

Valera said, “Of course, we support any student programs or clubs who would like to take a role in [working toward sustainability]… As we’re cutting back our carbon emissions, the university is growing.”

Despite working with a tight budget, according to Cathcart and Valera, Fordham has implemented a number of cost-efficient energy-reducing initiatives. Recently a photoelectric array was installed on the roof of Walsh Library at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH). It’s used to offset five percent of the library’s electrical demands.

Cathcart said, “[The photoelectric array] is wonderful. It’s not going to make a huge impact, but it’s a great step forward.” Fordham recently received a $500,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to improve Walsh Library’s energy efficiency. Another area of concern is how each campus powers itself.

“FCLC uses steam from [Con Edison] to power the campus,” Valera said. “At Rose Hill, we have to make our own steam.” FCRH recently switched from burning oil to using only natural gas for power.

Another initiative is a University-wide policy that any new buildings must qualify for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) level of silver or higher. The two new dorms set to open at FCRH are certified gold LEED buildings. The buildings are highly insulated, making them more efficient when it comes to heating and cooling the interior. According to Valera, 100 trees will be planted on the Rose Hill campus. The planting started on April 8.

Other green changes include facilities using environmentally-safe cleaning products, and 20 percent of Fordham’s security vehicle fleet is now electric. And when students move out of the dorms at the end of the semester, on both campuses, Goodwill bins will be available for donations. It’s part of Fordham’s “Recyclemania” project.

Valera said, “We’re going to ask students to participate actively this year… We really want people to donate—there are a lot of people in need.”

Fordham also started to include more classes on sustainability and the environment, with the relatively new creation of the Environmental Policy major. This summer, a “Sustainable New York” class will be taught by Michael Fishman, a waterfront planner and architect, and Carter Craft, the former executive director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

Cathcart said, “It’s going to be mad fun… [There will be] a lot of good, hard learning in the sunshine of one of the most environmentally responsible places on earth. Yes, the city of New York.”