FAIRFAX, Va. — America's minority-serving institutions, known by the acronym MSIs, representing colleges and universities whose student bodies include large percentages of African-American, Latino and Native American students have joined the drive for environmental sustainability and have taken steps to conserve resources and to encourage greater awareness of the fragile ecology of the interdependent world. 

That is the conclusion of the Minority-Serving Institutions Green Report, a  campus sustainability survey developed in 2010 by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Institute for Capacity Building and the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

The report and UNCF's Building Green Initiative are funded by the Kresge Foundation. Second Nature, an organization with expertise in advancing sustainability and green building with leaders in higher education, is a partner in the initiative.

The UNCF report identified several highlights in its survey of campus sustainability practices:

  • Sixty percent of participating colleges and universities have green buildings up and running on campus or under construction.
  • Ninety-six percent recycle, with 71 percent recycling paper, 63 percent recycling aluminum and 58 percent recycling cardboard.
  • Sixty-four percent of institutions with dining halls purchase local food, helping to reduce the carbon emissions associated with transporting food.
  • Fifty-two percent offer free transportation around campus, off campus or both.

“The UNCF Institute for Capacity Building's Building Green Initiative spreads the message that environmental sustainability is not only the right thing to do but the economically smart thing,” said Michael L. Lomax,  UNCF president and CEO.

“Building green helps colleges cut operating costs, reduce waste and pollution and expand environmental sustainability practices.  MSI budgets are always tight.  But building green is not an expense; it is an investment in a better campus and a better world," Lomax said.

The Minority-Serving Institutions Green Report is based on survey responses received from August to October. Fifty-two colleges that had participated in UNCF's Building Green Learning Institutes in Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Antonio completed online surveys exploring sustainability initiatives in seven categories: administration, climate change and energy, green buildings, recycling, dining, student involvement and transportation.

Fifty percent of invited schools responded to the survey reporting on sustainability initiatives, policies and programs existing or planned.   In each category the report offers evidence of significant progress, as well as the potential for even more.

Released April 20 in observance of Earth Day, which was observed April 22, the report is designed to serve as a catalog of sustainability activities already underway at colleges and universities whose mission is educating historically underserved groups.

It also serves as a campus sustainability guide for students, parents, school administrators and others and as a resource for other institutions considering starting or improving their own campus-sustainability practices. 
Overall, the results from this report highlight important progress. In most cases where sustainability efforts have lagged, it has been because of lack of resources. Almost all participating schools said that funding would make the biggest difference in fulfilling their environmental interests.

Institutions often view green building as an expense or a luxury that is unaffordable, rather than as an investment.  And, typically, green building construction costs are one to 2.5 percent higher than those for non-green buildings.  However, investing in a green initiative pays medium-term returns that often amount to ten times the increased expenditure during the life-cycle of a building or renovation in saving on energy, water use and waste disposal.

UNCF launched its Building Green at MSIs Initiative in November  2009 as a part of the Facilities and Infrastructure Enhancement Program through its Institute for Capacity Building.

To view the UNCF Minority-Serving Institutions Green Report, visit www.uncfbuildinggreen.org