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UMKC in top 50 of Sierra Club Cool Schools

The Student Union and Herman and Dorothy Johnson Residence Hall are in line with the US Green Building Council LEED certification requirements.
The Student Union and Herman and Dorothy Johnson Residence Hall are in line with the US Green Building Council LEED certification requirements.

Ranking recognizes sustainability, ‘green’ efforts

The University of Missouri-Kansas City placed in the top 50 of the 2012 Sierra Club’s Cool Schools ranking. The ranking evaluates colleges and universities across the nation on sustainability issues like energy efficiency, waste management, ‘green’ curriculum, and serving sustainable foods.

UMKC is one of just two Missouri schools to rank in the top 50.

The ranking recognizes not only UMKC’s most recent sustainability efforts, but its continued commitment to going green. In 2010, UMKC ranked 95th on the Sierra Club Cool Schools list. Today, the university is 50th.

“This is a huge leap forward for our campus. Together, we’ve made sustainability a campus-wide effort. When we all do a little, we all do a lot,” Kaye Johnston, sustainability coordinator, said.

Rankings were determined by an 11-category scoring system, using data that the schools reported through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS).

UMKC performed particularly well in the energy efficiency, waste management, and sustainable food categories. The sustainability office has spearheaded several big initiatives in those areas.

Through the waste management program, 2,151 tons of waste have been diverted from landfills since 2004. As a result, the University saves between $90,000 and $96,000 annually. Recycling rates on campus have risen from 23 percent in 2008 to 78 percent in 2012 as a result of a proactive student outreach and education campaign.

A voluntary energy management campaign, which was launched this past spring,has also helped limit waste. To participate in the campaign, members of the UMKC community can pledge to do seemingly small things – like turning off a light bulb or a computer when it’s not in use. As a result of the pledges, UMKC has an annual emissions savings of 268,158 lbs., and an annual savings of $7,179.96. At full participation, the university could save up to $500,000 annually.

Dining Services have also made substantial changes, from using local produce to purchasing biodegradable cups. Their efforts were highlighted in a recent episode of KCPT’s Imagine.

Although the sustainability office’s big initiatives have helped UMKC make substantial gains in the Sierra Club’s Cool School ranking, Johnston says that it’s the so-called ‘little things’ that have made a difference.

“People who don’t even realize they’re a part of this sustainability effort are actually playing a huge role,” Johnston said.

Everything from the custodial staff swapping their paper towels for washable ones to the dining services staff using compostable straws contributes to a culture of sustainability.


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