It’s Not Easy Being Green: Fordham Fails

Recent Report Shows University Does Not Meet Sustainability Standards


Published: November 15, 2007

FORDHAM—Fordham’s environmental efforts are not up to par, according to the College Sustainability Report. In the 2008 edition of the report, which scores schools on how “green” they are, Fordham was given a D overall, failing three of the seven categories and barely pulling a B as a high score in another. The report comes just months after Fordham accepted Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC green initiative, announced on Earth Day  this past April.

“It’s not a fair assessment, since we didn’t talk to them,” said Marc Valera, associate vice president for Facilities Management at Fordham. He explained that the Report contacted Fordham with only a week or so to collect and distribute the information, in the heart of the PlaNYC initiative. “It’s a relative grade and it’s all based on the information that we couldn’t provide at the time because we were participating with Mayor Bloomberg.”

The College Sustainability Report Card is an evaluation of college campuses’ sustainability or conservation of natural resources across the United States and Canada. It evaluates the colleges with the 200 largest endowments, hoping these institutions will be leaders in “aligning sustainable campus and endowment practices with their educational missions,” according to the report. The report states that the trend is generally positive across universities, with more than two thirds of schools improving their overall grade from last year’s report. Fordham is not part of this 68 percent. The 2007 Report Card is no longer available, but the grades Fordham received for 2008 don’t seem to have left much room for anything but improvement.

Fordham earned an F in three categories on the 2008 Report Card: Green Building, Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement. The school has neither known green buildings nor a green building policy in place. It is also impossible to access information pertaining to endowment holdings and shareholder voting because the university has no known policy of disclosure.

Facilities Management has three electric vehicles in its fleet, giving the school a D in the category of transportation. The Report says that there are no known policies that “facilitate the use of other alternative forms of transportation,” though the Web site does give the impression that the three GEM electric vehicles are just the beginning of future alternative transportation.

“Our Ram Vans are efficient,” Valera said. “And we’ve committed to try to reduce our greenhouse gasses. We have to put programs in place to try to reduce emissions. We’ve been doing this since before the mayor’s challenge began.”

Fordham has addressed the issue of climate change by making a commitment to emissions reduction, earning it a D in the category of Administration. The university wasn’t able to score higher because it has no known campus-wide sustainability policies.

This was another point Valera refuted. “Lincoln Center has a green roof—what do you think the top of Quinn Library is? We’re maintaining a Green Space in an urban area.” He also noted that there are 113 acres of natural woodland on the Rose Hill campus with minimal development, preserving the environment. And all future buildings on both campuses, he said, are to be Leed Certified, meaning they’ve committed to a certain level of sustainability. In the meantime, Fordham is working to bring all the buildings already on both campuses up to Leed standards.

According to the Report, the university has neither invested in renewable energy nor community development, which earned it a C on the Report Card for Investment Priorities. Fordham also earned a C for Climate Change & Energy as one of nine NYC universities to commit to Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30 percent over the next ten years.

Valera said, “Our biggest source of local emissions is our boiler plant at Rose Hill,” which is being reconstructed to reduce emissions by up to 32 percent.

Fordham’s best sustainability feature is its food and recycling program, getting food from a handful of local producers and offering fair-trade coffee at its restaurants. Rose Hill also offers a specialty organic and fair-trade restaurant on its campus. The university also proudly recycles things like fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, paints, lab chemicals and used vehicles, along with basic paper products and other office supplies, according to the
Report Card.

A highlight of Fordham’s attempt at sustainability is the Green Space Stewardship Initiative. This initiative, a part of facilities management, focuses on programs like plantings, irrigation, mulching and organic lawn treatments.

Of the 200 colleges listed, Fordham ranks behind 164 schools, with only 24 receiving lower scores.  In comparison to other New York City schools, Fordham still fared worse, with Columbia earning a B, NYU a C plus and Yeshiva University a C minus. The only Manhattan college to score worse than Fordham was The Julliard School, which failed.