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Joining the Green PAC-12

The new Pac-12 includes some very environmentally-conscious schools.

Hey Ute fans!  Grab your bicycle, that reusable coffee mug, and locate the nearest recycling bin because we’re entering the PAC-12! 

The new PAC-12 includes some very environmentally-conscious schools.

Sure, much of the excitement about Utah’s new Pacific-12 Conference shift revolves around football and other sports match-ups.  But just as the league will challenge the Ute’s athletic prowess against other leading Western universities, it could also put the University’s sustainability proficiency to the test. 

The U’s Office of Sustainability has been sizing up the competition’s green skills, and it turns out other PAC-12 schools deem things like recycling, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas reductions to be pretty important.  So far the U is just about average in comparison to other PAC-12 schools, according to the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) and the Princeton Review (PR).

2011 Sustainability Rankings – PAC-12    
Arizona State A- 99
Washington A- 99
Stanford A- 92



Colorado B+ 88
Oregon State B+ 98
California B+ 99
Oregon B+ 96
Arizona B 60
USC B- 90
Washington State C 89

This year Utah earned a B+ grade (up from a B last year) for its sustainability efforts including releasing its 2010 Climate Action Plan and completing a LEEDTM Gold certification for the new Frederick Albert Sutton Building.  We also accomplished several student-initiated projects like a storm-runoff infiltration garden, an expansion of our on-campus food gardens, and we kicked-off some energy conservation outreach programs. 

The nonprofit Sustainable Endowments Institute and their Green Report Card ranks schools on a broad scale accounting for things like energy, food, recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, and shareholder engagement. 

Rice-Eccles stadium in 2008. Photo by Don Green, Deseret News.

The logic behind the grades is that competition motivates people and organizations to action.  More and more, universities are using competitions as fun and rousing ways to get people involved with green initiatives.  Recently even the EPA introduced a challenge for schools to promote waste reduction during football games. 

While ASUU is organizing a recycling initiative to divert trash collected after every game at Rice-Eccles stadium, Utah students could probably learn some things from Oregon State or the University of Colorado.  CU kicked off its zero waste initiative for football games in 2008, and with active participation from students and volunteers they have continued diverting most of their waste produced during home games.  To get fans onboard, CU prints posters depicting a football field equating five yards gained for every 705 pounds of recycled material. Every 100 yards gained is celebrated as a recycling touchdown.

The University of Colorado, one of the U's new PAC-12 competitors, has been recycling at home games since 1994.

 When it comes to sustainability projects other PAC-12 schools are doing some really innovative things: 

The Global Institute of Sustainability Building at Arizona State University. Photo by Vince Palermo.

Arizona State University has created an “energy conservation” hotline, which they encourage students to call if they have an idea for energy conservation, or if they see wasteful activities on campus.  ASU also plans to install 12MW of solar power across its 4 campuses, and sends roughly 140 tons of landscaping waste to a local farm that composts it and returns it to ASU as organic soil.  Arizona State also created a webpage where members of the ASU community can post reusable office supplies, lab supplies, furniture and other unneeded items. 

The University of Washington’s campus maintains 30 “green” roofs (a roof partially or completely covered with vegetation) covering about 6.6 acres.  UW also reduced its daily overall water consumption by improving outdoor irrigation, and through a public utilities rebate program they installed 1,823 low-flow toilets and paid off the costs a year later with the water savings. 

Stanford University maintains a purchasing policy that encourages procurement of green products.  Over half of Stanford’s off-campus employees carpool, use public transit, bicycle, or walk to work.  And forty percent of Stanford’s food service uses organic or regionally grown produce. 

Beyond the rowdy athletic competitions awaiting the Utes in the coming years, there are sure to be lots of “green” reasons to get excited about the PAC-12 expansion.  The University of Utah should find plenty of opportunities to share new green ideas and learn sustainable habits from these other cutting edge schools in the West. 

Let’s Go Utes!! 

This article was co-written by Ross Chambless and Kody Gubler.

  • UteFam

    Nice to hear this Pac-12 thing isn’t just about football! Way to go, Ross.