The Sierra Club’s magazine, Sierra, issued its 2010 rankings of the 100 greenest schools. According to the magazine, the index is meant to measure a school’s commitment to sustainability and includes a range of indicators, such as: energy efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments, and a catchall section titled ‘other initiatives.’” This year, Sierra weighted energy efficiency more heavily, which caused significant changes to the top tier in comparison with the 2009 list.
The school sent a 11-page questionnaire to 900 schools and universities and more than 160 responded. On their methodology, Sierra writes: “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.”
All the schools seem to be integrating innovative features like campus-based renewable energy systems and composting toilets into their campuses and environmental curricula. All schools have some sort of sustainable landscape program aimed at ending the use of chemical fertilizers and sustainably managing water.
Some ambitious schools are aiming for carbon neutrality. Others like College of the Atlantic have actually accomplished net-zero.
The top ten schools are:
1. Green Mountain College Poultney, VT
Sierra says: “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.” Learn more about the college’s new $5.8-million biomass facility that runs on locally-harvested wood chips.
4. University of Washington Seattle, WA
Check out the University’s guide to environmentally-sustainable facilities services, which is part of the campus’ broader climate action plan.
5. Stanford University Stanford, CA
“Stanford’s $225 million Global Climate and Energy Project focuses on diverse cutting-edge technologies to help lower carbon dioxide emissions.” Check out the comprehensive “Sustainable Stanford” site, which outlines the school’s climate action plan and goals for a range of areas.
6. University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA
On UC Irvine’s 1,400-acre campus, grounds administrators have “adopted numerous environmentally sound practices, such as recycling plant waste into mulch, reducing fertilization, and implementing water savings measures.”
Schools that didn’t make the cut should consider signing-on to and implementing the guidelines of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
Image credit: Green Mountain College Woodchip Biomass Energy Plant / Matte Network