Sierra Club ‘Cool Schools’ 2017 Snubs Western Colleges
Sierra Club’s 2017 ‘Cool Schools’ ranking of 227 participating colleges and universities found that none had yet achieved “complete sustainability” according to the environmental group.
Self-reporting schools could earn up to 1,000 points across 62 categories, scoring points for sustainability programs, emissions monitoring, LEED certifications, locally sourced organic and fair trade food and beverages, electricity generation, multi-modal transportation options, and campus divestment.
The highest score, 779.58, went to the College of the Atlantic, “an innovative and experimental college community dedicated to the study and practice of human ecology,” located in Maine. But even the College of the Atlantic has its work cut out to meet the lofty goals set by the Sierra Club’s ranking system.
“[W]hile many universities are making admirable progress, no school has yet attained complete sustainability,” said the Sierra Club.
“Since we launched the Cools Schools rankings 11 years ago, higher education has come a long way in terms of incorporating sustainability values. At this point, it’s no longer sufficient for schools to simply survey their operations and curricula; we, along with our 3 million members and supporters, are expecting measurable progress,” they wrote.
Schools could earn up to 60 points for varying levels of divestment, beginning with a 10 point bonus for submitting the survey. If the school had undertaken complete divestment for all fossil fuels, a maximum 50 points were also awarded. However, the group removed points if the divestment plan only pertained to directly held shares. “[O]f the schools that have made a public decision to divest, if they have only done it for directly held shares, then they receive -10 points,” said the Sierra Club.
Rounding out the top ten for 2017:
- Green Mountain College (Vermont)
- Sterling College (Kansas)
- SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- Lewis & Clark College (Oregon)
- Loyola Marymount University (California)
- Arizona State University
- University of California, Irvine
- Colby College (Maine)
- University of San Diego
The largest single point category (65) came from renewable energy electricity generation and heating from non-petroleum sources.
Feeding thousands of undergraduates requires a great deal of planning, and so food sourcing from “local and community-based” purchases and “third-party-certified responsible” programs (organic, fair trade), along with vegan options, could garner the school a hefty haul of points.
The Sierra Club’s transportation criteria gave points for multi-modal commuting options including bicycle-sharing, discounted mass transit options, telecommuting and condensed workweek, carpooling and other sustainable methods.
After Arizona State University, the only other school from the Rocky Mountain West that placed in the top 25 was Colorado State University, retaining its 2016 ranking of 11th place.
Reknowned for their environmental activism, the Centennial state’s schools placed lower on the ‘Cool Schools’ rankings, with the University of Colorado Boulder earning just under 58 percent of the possible points for 81st place. The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (83rd), Colorado College (138th), University of Denver (153rd), and Western State Colorado University (192nd) also ranked among the 227 participating schools.
Colorado College fell nearly 90 spots in the 2017 rankings, dropping to 138th place. The University of Colorado Boulder campus dropped 12 spots, from 69th.