Building a better environmental future

November 3, 2023

University News

Bees meandering in the meadows and a new green roof on the law school are just two reasons the University of Richmond is recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly colleges in the nation.

The Princeton Review recently recognized Richmond among the top 50 schools for environmental responsibility in its Guide to Green Colleges: 2024 Edition. UR has been included in the guide for more than a decade and ranked among the top 50 two years running. The publication looked for superb sustainability practices and education and a healthy quality of life for students.

“It’s a testament to the efforts of our students, faculty, and staff to model how we can effectively meet the challenges of our time,” said Rob Andrejewski, director of sustainability. Andrejewski noted initiatives such as the development of a sustainability minor and the creation of the Rethink Waste program, a multi-faceted approach to encourage campus members to recycle, compost, and donate unwanted items. UR has an ambitious goal of 75% waste diversion by 2025.

The University is also working to promote campus pollinators, due to the dwindling worldwide bee population. Research shows that up to 40% of pollinators may be at risk of extinction in the coming years due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. To address the problem locally, UR has a plan designed to prevent pest problems while expanding the use of non-chemical management methods.

UR maintains two honeybee hives near Cannon Memorial Chapel and has created native plant habitats in the Eco-Corridor trail that draw bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The importance of conserving these species — responsible for approximately one-third of the world’s food — is stressed in class and student club visits to the area. UR has earned a Bee Campus USA certification for its efforts to encourage pollinators, from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

In addition to its commitment to current sustainability efforts, the University also leans into green initiatives, such as eco-friendly building choices.

As an example, Richmond Law’s recent renovation included creating a green roof made up of about 700 square feet of trays of sedum, a drought-resistant succulent. The green roof will reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer, provide insulation in the winter, and reduce the surface runoff of rainwater.

“The sedum is low maintenance and resilient in harsh conditions throughout the year,” said Benjamin Gillie, assistant director of Construction Management and Design. “It will significantly reduce the heat island effect common in urban environments.”

The Princeton Review’s selections were based on a combination of school-reported data and student surveys.

“Sustainability here is vibrant at the grassroots level and has robust support from our administration,” Andrejewski said. “Our students are clear that more must be done to address systemic issues like the climate crisis and inequality.”