The Sustainable Endowments Institute tracks environmental trends on campuses using a website. Greenreportcard.org provides an in-depth sustainability profile for almost 300 colleges. Schools are graded on shareholder engagement, transportation, food and recycling, and student involvement among other categories.
It is students who usually drive the green movement and advocate for their schools to become more green. But students on Howard’s campus say despite interest, the green movement there is standing still. For Crystal Nwaogu, a Howard graduate, being green on the campus was not an easy task. She complained that her facilities made it difficult to conserve as much energy and materials as she liked. Her biggest issue was being unable to recycle the daily campus newspaper or soda cans and bottles. Despite the lack of recycling bins, she still made “a strong effort to use recycled materials, reduce shower times, recycle… and conserve energy.”
In a survey by the Princeton Review of nearly 12,000 college applicants and their parents, 64 percent said knowing a school’s policy on sustainability impacted their decision to apply or attend. Of the 300 schools, only two other HBCU’s were graded, Spelman College and Hampton University. Spelman received a D and Hampton a D+.
Recent Howard graduate Davani Durette decided to take the sustainability shortfalls on campus into his own hands. While at Howard, Durette began working on a proposal with sustainability suggestions and ways to create interest for the green movement. The proposal outlines some changes the school can make including opening a recycling center to track and repurpose resources already found on campus. Te proposal also recomends a campus-wide initiative to bring in experts to consult on how Howard could improve on infrastructre.
Durette says he knows “the green movement at HU has barely scratched the surface” because it has not reached the student body at large. He argues that many people can’t get interested until they understand the impact and importance of ecological consciousness. He hopes his proposals for Howard bring green to the mainstream there.
“It can’t progress until people become aware of it and participate in it, beyond dropping off extra paper or plastic bottles on occasion.” Durette plans to motivate students to take that next step and hold the administration accountable. Students want their campuses to engage in constant green events that promote student involvement, senior Jonathan Brhane thinks the simplest idea would be to launch a week of seminars, promoting different ways to be green and highlighting the different benefits of being green.
Howard received an F for the category of administration, lacking any known policy relating to campus-wide sustainability initiatives. But they aren’t the only ones to blame. Students on the campus also earned an F, having no active programs to involve students in campus sustainability activities.
Howard did receive an overall F but the school has made some incremental steps forward from previous years. In 2010 Howard saw its first campus-wide recycling program and a student involvement initiative through its Environmental and Sustainability Council. In a statement made in the University’s Capstone newsletter Michael Harris, Associate Vice President for administrative services, said “the burden is now on the students, staff and faculty to participate and become good stewards of the environment and to answer the call of conservation.” Spelman College and Hampton University have implemented students councils, green programming and investments to carry on the push toward campus sustainability, raising their green grades in varies categories.
Students who attended Howard and other HBCU‘s, including Nwaogu, point out that the key is visibility. Nwaogu believes, “showing students, faculty and staff that the university is taking clear strides toward a greener university“ makes a environmentally sustainable campus and even a passing grade that much closer.