Sierra Club's Greenest Universities and Colleges -- Is Yours on the List?
Editor's Note: To read the details about each school, check out this page.
Intercollegiate rivalry is a long and hallowed tradition. That was the operating premise, anyway, behind our fourth annual Coolest Schools survey. We sent out 11-page questionnaires to 900 colleges and universities across the United States, asking them to detail their sustainability efforts. We received 162 responses, nearly all of them painstakingly thorough. Justin Mog, who works on sustainability initiatives at Kentucky's University of Louisville, was one of several respondents who confirmed our original idea, thanking us for "keeping up the competitive pressure on universities to push the sustainability envelope."
The survey "reminds us of what we've accomplished and how much is yet to be done," wrote David Prytherch, the sustainability coordinator at Miami University in Ohio. "It helps encourage continued innovation, knowing that others are watching." As with any ranking system, this one is bound to incite controversy, and we welcome responses and critiques. You can join that lively discussion—and peruse a copy of the questionnaire, an explanation of our scoring methodology, and every school's complete response.
Sierra shifted priorities in this year's survey after consulting the Club's conservation experts, who encouraged us to give more weight to each school's energy supply. That adjustment caused a significant shuffle at the top of the list: This year's top 20 includes 9 newcomers. And our new valedictorian, Vermont's Green Mountain College, placed 35th last year.
Although energy supply carried the most significance, nine other categories were considered in measuring a school's commitment to sustainability: efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments, and a catchall section titled "other initiatives." No school scored a perfect 100; Green Mountain came closest, with 88.6.
Although we worked hard to apply rigorous, objective standards when evaluating the questionnaires, a certain amount of subjectivity was inevitable, and we hope that readers (and the growing legion of college sustainability officers) will bear that in mind. The point, after all, is to create competition, to generate awareness, and to celebrate that so many colleges even have a sustainability officer. --Avital Binshtock and Kyle Boelte
The Top 20
1. Green Mountain College
Poultney, VT | Score: 88.6
GMC excels in most categories, and it's the MVP when it comes to creativity. The campus gets power and heat from biomass and biogas (a.k.a. cow power) and plans to be carbon-neutral by next year.
2. Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA | Score: 86.1
Dickinson integrates sustainability studies across its curricula, maintains a high-efficiency energy plant, and runs a hands-on biodiesel shop.
3. Evergreen State College
Olympia, WA | Score: 85.9
The student body's self-imposed clean-energy fee enables Evergreen to purchase renewable-energy credits for 100 percent of its electricity.
4. University of Washington
Seattle, WA | Score: 84.7
UW's annual solutions-oriented Environmental Innovation Challenge, which teams students from disparate departments, represents interdisciplinary eco-thinking at its best.
5. Stanford University
Stanford, CA | Score: 84.6
Stanford's $225 million Global Climate and Energy Project focuses on diverse cutting-edge technologies to help lower carbon dioxide emissions.
6. University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA | Score: 84.4
Incentives for alternative transportation minimize car commuting to UCI, even though it's in SUV-obsessed Orange County.
7. Northland College
Ashland, WI | Score: 84.2
Northland's 12-year-old, pre-LEED McLean Environmental Living and Learning Center has composting toilets, low-flow water fixtures, solar panels, and a wind turbine.
8. Harvard University
Cambridge, MA | Score: 82.8
America's oldest college invests in the future with a revolving fund that loans money for recycling and solar projects. Payback comes in the form of efficiency savings.
9. College of the Atlantic
Bar Harbor, ME | Score: 82.5
A sustainable-business curriculum and an affiliated "venture incubator" encourage eco-entrepreneurs.
10. Hampshire College
Amherst, MA | Score: 82.4
Hampshire's responsible-investing committee, one of the oldest in the country, aims to make the school's endowment benefit the environment.
11. [Tie] University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA | Score: 82 | The UCSC Banana Slugs have an impressive 73 percent waste-diversion rate and plan to reach 100 percent by 2020.
11. [Tie] Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT | Score: 82 | A team of ambitious undergrads made the finals of the prestigious, tech-heavy 2011 Solar Decathlon, a notable feat for a small liberal-arts school.
13. University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, CO | Score: 81.9 | A national environmental leader, CU Boulder is the home of the influential Center of the American West, a think tank that addresses Western land and energy issues.
14. Warren Wilson College
Asheville, NC | Score: 81.8 | Warren Wilson gets more than a third of its food from farms within 500 miles of campus--including from its own six-acre organic garden.
15. University of California, San Diego
San Diego, CA | Score: 81.6 | UCSD's dining halls offer "Meatless Mondays" to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. No matter what day it is, 35 percent of the school's cafeteria food is organic.
16. [TIE] University of California, Davis
Davis, CA | Score: 81.2 | Davis students can learn ecologically viable farming methods by majoring in sustainable agriculture and food systems.
16. [TIE] University of Vermont
Burlington, VT | Score: 81.2 | Over the past decade, UVM has cut its number of car commuters by half, thanks to incentives for students who use alternative transportation.
18. University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA | Score: 80.7 | By awarding grants to faculty and students for innovative sustainability proposals, Penn spurs competition to help execute its climate action plan.
19. New York University
New York, NY | Score: 80.6 | NYU plans to install a 6,500-square-foot green roof atop its 11-story Stern School of Business, in Greenwich Village.
20. Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA | Score: 80.5 | Georgia Tech has a full-time alternative-transportation manager and is constructing a million-gallon cistern to reduce its stormwater runoff by 30 percent.
The Rest of the Best
- Cornell University
- Colorado College
- Oberlin College
- Oregon State University
- Yale University
- Portland State University
- Princeton University
- Furman University
- Smith College
- Pomona College
- UC Berkeley
- University of New Hampshire
- Arizona State University
- Marlboro College
- University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
- Brown University
- Macalester College
- UC Merced
- UNC-Chapel Hill
- Colorado State University
- Emory University
- Washington University in St. Louis
- UC Santa Barbara
- SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- Bowdoin College
- University of Michigan
- Western Washington University
- Boston University
- University of Connecticut
- Wellesley College
- Willamette University
- Villanova University
- Duke University
- Pacific Lutheran University
- University of Louisville
- DePaul University
- George Washington University
- Naropa University
- Seattle University
- Williams College
- Northern Arizona University
- Bard College
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Sterling College
- Dartmouth College
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- State University of New York At Binghamton
- University of La Verne
- San Francisco State University
- Colby College
- Case Western Reserve University
- Point Loma Nazarene University
- Western State College of Colorado
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- Whitman College
- Lewis & Clark College
- Swarthmore College
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- Humboldt State University
- Drexel University
- University of Florida
- Mills College
- Elon University
- Hamilton College
- University of Idaho
- Amherst College
- Metropolitan State College of Denver
- Central Michigan University
- Hobart & William Smith Colleges
- Allegheny College
- University of Missouri-Kansas City
- Appalachian State University
- University of Georgia
- Bentley University
- Southern Oregon University
- Knox College
- Montclair State University
- Augsburg College
- University of San Diego