The University of Virginia can now wear a green ribbon for its sustainability efforts.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced this week that the University had been awarded the department’s Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award. U.Va. was one of only nine post-secondary institutions across the country given the award, and the only one in Virginia.
“This award provides national recognition for the University’s progress in environmental stewardship, wellness and sustainability education, which is led, implemented and utilized by thousands of students, faculty and staff across Grounds,” said Andrea Trimble, director of the University’s Office for Sustainability.
“The Department of Education is recognizing the importance of education in the realm of sustainability,” she said. “It is recognizing schools that are working in many different areas and combining education with other elements and recognizing the whole.”
The University was judged on three areas. The first focused on reduced environmental impact and costs in areas such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions; improving water quality, efficiency and conservation; managing solid and hazardous waste; and promoting alternative transportation. The second area examines improved health and wellness – environmental health and coordinated school health. The third category takes into account effective environmental and sustainability education through interdisciplinary learning; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math content; and civic engagement knowledge.
The Department of Education began the Green Ribbon program in 2012, but previously recognized sustainability efforts only in K-12 schools, Trimble said. U.Va. was recommended by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Among the University’s sustainability achievements, Trimble noted that U.Va. set a goal that by 2025, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reactive nitrogen emissions, by 25 percent from 2009 levels. Much of the research necessary for measuring nitrogen footprints originated at U.Va., which is the first institution of higher education to set a nitrogen footprint reduction target.
Representatives from the University are invited to attend a ceremony in Washington in June where the school will be honored and recognized for its efforts. The four-day event will be an opportunity to meet with members of Congress and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as other education leaders, Trimble said.
“This also builds awareness of what we are already doing on Grounds,” she said. “We can look at the progress we have made and look at the work still to do.”