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Sustainability | Ecotrope

Ducks vs. Beavers: Let's talk trash (literally)

Believe it or not, I’ve had a few requests to investigate the environmental virtues of Ducks vs. Beavers and figure out which school is greener. The annual Civil War rivalry kicks off this weekend. ESPN will be there, and everybody’s all worked up.

I’ll tell you right now, I have NO IDEA which football team is better.

But I do know, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Game Day Challenge and the Annual College Sustainability Report Card, how the schools stack up when it comes to environmental leadership (note: It’s a REALLY close match). Place your bets now and weigh in with your own stats!

Turns out the Ducks generated more than twice as much waste as the Beavers did on the EPA’s game day, but the Ducks recycled more and managed to cut four times as much carbon out of their game day waste stream as the Beavers did.

Does that mean Ducks win? Ha. If only it were that simple. Almost three-quarters of the Beavers energy comes from renewable sources, and the students charge themselves a green fee to help cover the cost. Amazingly enough, both schools got the same overall grade on this year’s green report cards: B+. But the Beavers scored better on energy and climate change and student involvement while the Ducks aced the Beavs on food and recycling.

Read on, and tell me which school you think is greener and why:

Sure, you have green uniforms, but my team generates less trash!

Sure, you have green uniforms, but my team generates less trash!

Oh yeah? Well, I recycle more. So there!

Oh yeah? Well, I recycle more. So there!

EPA Game Day Challenge

Forget ESPN. The EPA is the one keeping stats on which colleges have the greener football games. Its annual college football Game Day Challenge collects data on waste and carbon dioxide emission reductions from one home football game in October, and gives out five awards. Neither team won the national competitions, but who scored better: Ducks or Beavers?

  1. Waste generation: Wow, Duck fans generated a LOT more waste per person (that’s garbage and recycling)! More than twice as much, according to the EPA stats. OSU generated .58 pounds of trash per person on game day while U of O generated 1.3 pounds. Beavs win this match by a mile.
  2. Recycling rate: Luckily, the Ducks also recycle a lot. The diversion rate at U of O is 18 percent higher than it is at OSU (42 percent vs. 24 percent). Ducks win this match (though if you do the math, I wonder if the Ducks still have more trash leftover).
  3. Greenhouse gas reduction: The Ducks did more to reduce their carbon emissions through their game day waste reduction plan – cutting more than 57.14 tons of CO2 to the Beavers’ 12.76 tons. That’s a big win.
  4. Recycling per person: The Ducks outdid the Beavers on total recycling, too, with .55 pounds per person to OSU’s .142 pounds.
  5. Organics reduction: Neither school reported anything here, so it’s a draw.

So, those stats might favor the Ducks, but then the EPA went and made Corvallis its Green Power Community of the Year for 2010. OSU is the largest single purchaser of green power in Corvallis, and part of the reason they can buy so much is the $8.50 “green energy” fee that students approved in 2007. The university buys more than 51 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, covering more than half of its overall electricity use.

Personally, I’d think it would be hard for a duck to match the ecological value of a beaver – nature’s water-storage engineers. But beaver structures create nesting habitat for ducks, and in nature the two clearly wouldn’t be facing off on FieldTurf. No help there.

Luckily, there’s the College Sustainability Report Card – a comprehensive measure of each university’s greenness.

But the Ducks and Beavs both got a B+ on their 2011 green report cards. Dang it! I was hoping that would make the scoring easier.

The Beavs had a B+ on their 2010 report card, though, and the Ducks earned a B.

In 2010, the Ducks had better grades in student involvement than the Beavs (16 environmental student groups vs. 15 at OSU), but they fell short in green building (OSU gets points for its LEED Platinum cogeneration facility, greener lighting and waterless urinals). The Ducks lost big points on endowment transparency (not revealing where their money comes from) and shareholder engagement (because essentially they have none).

Here’s how the 2011 report cards match up:

A look at the Ducks 2011 report card shows they earned points for:

  • Having an Environmental Issues Committee, a full-time director in its sustainability office and a $35,000 annual student sustainability fund
  • One LEED Gold-certified and one LEED Silver-certified building, with six additional buildings meeting LEED standards. All new buildings must meet LEED Silver standards at least.
  • Low-flow faucets and showerheads and weather-informed irrigation.
  • 90 percent of students and 50 percent of faculty and staff making green commutes with help from 75 rentable bikes in a sharing program and a bike repair shop.
  • Discounts on parking passes, preferable parking spaces for carpools with three or more riders and free local transit.

The Beavers 2011 report card shows OSU got points for:

  • Its green purchasing policy, a green revolving loan fund
  • A sustainability fee board, and two other sustainability-related committees.
  • Having three LEED Certified buildings on campus, and six more that meet LEED criteria. The school also mandates all new construction must be built to at least LEED Silver standards.
  • Running a bicycle repair service (since 1970) available to students at no cost, keeping the core of campus is restricted to service and transit vehicles, and providing transit passes for students.
  • Allowing donors to request that gifts be directed into environmentally and socially responsible investment options.

Now, here’s where they differed:

The Ducks scored higher in Food and Recycling than the Beavers.

Ducks got an A:

“Over 25 percent of the university’s dining budget is spent on organic or local food items. Dining services purchases vegetarian-fed pork and beef, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and dairy products, as well as sustainably harvested seafood. Pre- and postconsumer food waste is composted at most meals. Excess food is donated to a food bank, and all dining halls are trayless.”

And the Beavers got a B:

“OSU buys 35 percent of its food from local distributors and growers. The university uses sustainability guidelines for seafood purchases and buys vegetarian-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, and exclusively fair trade coffee. The university composts food waste at 80 percent of meals and runs a comprehensive recycling program for electronics and traditional materials.”

But the Beavers scored better on energy and climate change.

Beavers got an A:

“In 2008, Oregon State signed a three-year contract to purchase renewable energy credits equivalent to 73 percent of the university’s total annual energy use. Cash incentives are offered for departments to conserve energy, and the university offers a trade-in program for inefficient appliances and incandescent lights.”

And the Ducks got a B:

“The university has conducted a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and is committed to reduce emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. An energy management system is in place, and live energy monitoring data is viewable for many building. Lighting sensors and energy-efficient lighting have also been installed to reduce energy use.”

Beavers scored better in student involvement too, apparently adding five green student groups over the course of a year.

So, Beavers got an A:

“Oregon State has twenty sustainability- and environment-oriented student groups on campus that collaborate through the Sustainability Coalition. Prior to orientation, nearly all incoming students participate in a variety of activities, including a zero-waste meal, designed to educate and expose new students to principles of institutional and personal sustainability.”

And the Ducks get a B:

“The university annually participates in three resource conservation competitions and employs 25 student sustainability interns. It has lots of environmentally conscious student groups and puts on sustainability skits during orientation.”

It’s a bit stunning how poorly the Ducks score on endowment transparency.

Ducks got a D:

“The University of Oregon Foundation makes a list of all holdings available to university trustees, and a list of external managers and mutual funds available to senior administrators. The foundation only makes a list of asset allocation available to the general public. Votes cast on proxy resolutions on a company-specific level are made available to trustees and senior administrators.”

While the Beavs got a B:

“The Oregon State University Foundation makes a list of all holdings available to trustees and senior administrators, and a list of asset allocation, external managers, and equity, fixed income, real estate, private equity, and cash holdings, available online to the general public. The foundation does not make its shareholder voting record public.”

And the Ducks didn’t even get a grade on shareholder engagement, while the Beavers got a D with this brief note: “The foundation provides its investment managers with general guidelines that determine its proxy votes.”

I’d have to say this is a really tough call so far. I didn’t go to either one of these schools (I’m a Missouri Tiger), so I really have no bias here. Got any other measures of sustainability to throw in the mix? I’ll take input through the weekend, and then maybe we’ll declare a winner after the Civil War by a show of hands, so to speak…

Garbage Oregon State University Recycling University of Oregon

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