National environment group recognizes GVSU sustainability practices

A photo of students learning at the Sustainable Agriculture Project.
The Sustainable Agriculture Project, located in Allendale.
Image Credit: Christi Wiltenburg

Grand Valley State University has been named one of the country’s greenest universities by the Sierra Club, the largest national grassroots environmental organization in the U.S. The university is the highest-ranking Michigan institution on the list, ahead of universities such as Pennsylvania State and Cornell. 

For the fifth time, Grand Valley is included in the Sierra’s Club’s annual list of Cool Schools. The list ranks schools that have a strong commitment to environmental improvement and are making significant efforts to operate sustainably. View the full list here.

Grand Valley placed 39th out of 227 institutions. The ranking was based on scores given to universities that completed a report on measurable sustainability goals, presented by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The report, called the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, gauges the progress of colleges and universities toward sustainability in academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation. Grand Valley is a gold-status university.  

Anne Hiskes, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, said the recognition puts Grand Valley on the national map for sustainability and is a testimony to the effectiveness of the university's Campus Sustainability Advisory Council, established in 2014 to facilitate campus sustainability initiatives.

Norman Christopher, executive director of the Office of Sustainability Practices, said the recognition is a reflection of the Facilities Services Department's effective and important role in waste reduction through campus-wide composting and recycling efforts. 

“GVSU has continued to raise the sustainability bar over the recent years across many areas thanks to participation and support from faculty, staff members and students," said Christopher.

Last academic year, more than 1.7 million pounds of materials were composted and nearly 3 million pounds were recycled, both increases from the previous year. 

Janet Aubil, facilities supervisor, leads waste reduction efforts at Grand Valley. She said throwing an item in the proper landfill, recycle or compost bin can make a big difference. "It's important for us to continue to teach the importance of waste reduction in living centers, classrooms, dining areas and at sporting events," she said. 

The Sierra Club has more than 3 million members and supporters. 

For more information, contact the Office of Sustainability Practices in Brooks College at or (616) 331-7366.