Seventeen years ago today Nirvana released their widely loved album Nevermind and many of us in our 30s today were thinking about college. In between the less accessible era of nihilistic punk music and the post-engagement fluff of the Emo genre, Nirvana heralded a brief period when popular music acknowledged to kids that the world was in bad shape but that we weren't alone in feeling that way.
The GreenReportCard site lets you compare more than 300 US colleges and universities in terms of ecological sustainability. Each school is given a letter grade for administrative commitment to the issue, food and transportation policy and transparency with its endowment, or the money it invests in the market in between using it to fund construction and other major projects. The grades are determined by independent research and surveys.
The site is very usable and includes the option of posting personalized comparisons to social networking sites. The service could certainly be more read-write based but it is a great example of a large organization making effective online use of its database.
Users can line up any number of schools to compare, though with a list of 300 schools tracked you're quite likely to find some gaps. Above are comparisons of the school I wanted to go to during that first Nirvana era (Macalester College, I wanted to study cultural anthropology) and the school I eventually graduated from (the University of Oregon, in political science).
I knew that the University of Oregon had a good reputation for recycling, green building, etc. but hadn't thought about its lack of transparency with its endowment as an ecological issue. A huge portion of the school's money comes from Nike founder Phil Knight, who's allegedly helping fund an Orwellian super-soldier research program that combines the jewel encrusted football facilities, nanotech research and a hyper-corporate urban planning regime. That's the word on the street, not information available from GreenReportCard, unfortunately. Apparently, Macallester College's money from the Readers Digest Foundation is used in a similarly non-transparent way. Who knew?
Hopefully the next generation of college students can find out this kind of information ahead of time using this new website. Don't forget, kids, to listen to Nevermind while perusing it. You don't have to listen to Emo - and you don't have to pick your colleges uninformed.