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October 22, 2014
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Opinion

Commentary: Ithaca College falls short in sustainability

Earlier this semester, I came across Sierra Club’s 2013 Coolest Schools rankings, which judges colleges on their sustainability. As I clicked my way through the top-10 list, from No. 10 to No. 1, I was dying to know what place Ithaca College received.

However, the college I chose to enroll in was not in the top 10. One of my other prospective schools, American University, was in the top 10, while Ithaca College — the college I had believed to be the greenest of all my choices — was not.

After scanning through the results, I found that out of 164 schools that made the list, the college came in 69th place. Out of 1000 possible points, we received 597.35. I realized that despite all of the green initiatives pitched to me during my tours, sustainable is not the best adjective to describe the college. Meanwhile, Cornell University landed fifth place with 776.72 points.

As a prospective student, one thing that made the college stand out to me above my other choices was its dedication to sustainability. On my campus tour, it seemed like the guide brought up sustainability in every building we walked through. I was impressed with the platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified business building, which uses rainwater for the toilets, has a vegetated roof and a design that maximizes natural lighting.

Not long after moving in, I noticed shortcomings in the college’s apparent greenness. My Integrated Core Curriculum theme, “Quest for a Sustainable Future,” has the second least amount of themed classes. This is disappointing, as an environmentally conscious college should be leading the way in green education.

I have also involved myself with green clubs on campus. After joining Stop Wasting Ithaca’s Food Today, I realized that food waste is still a major problem on campus, despite the existence of this club and Weigh the Waste, an initiative through the dining halls.

When I first came to college, I couldn’t wait to make composting a part of my everyday life. I was confused when I discovered composting isn’t offered in residence halls; it seems like an obvious program to have. My fellow Terrace 2 residents and I have to manage our own composting; we collect it in a bucket on the balcony and take it to the Terrace Dining Hall.

As an environmental activist and nature enthusiast, I feel disenchanted. But the college can learn from the other schools that made Sierra Club’s top-10 list. American University hosts a campus-beautification day each year. We could plant more trees to compete with Georgia Institute of Technology’s 25 percent arboreal cover. We could also install solar panels on the roofs of our buildings to provide energy, like the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of California at Irvine.

Despite these environmental shortcomings, I know that my college is taking steps in the right direction. For example, the college has a goal to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050. However, it has a long way to go before it can claim sustainability as an attribute, and I think this disclaimer should be made more obvious to prospective students. I have hope that student voices such as my own will encourage the administration to raise the bar, not only for the long-term, but for the near future as well.