Sierra Club’s Top 100 Green Schools

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.

2. Dickinson College Carlisle, PA
Read Dickison’s overall strategy for becoming carbon neutral by 2020.

3. Evergreen State College Olympia, WA
Learn more about Evergreen’s 1,000-acre sustainable campus, which includes 800 acres of woodland, gardens, a beach, and organic farm.

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.”

7. Northland College Ashland, WI
 Check out campus initiatives in sustainable landscaping.

8. Harvard University Cambridge, MA
Harvard is also now using compost to restore the soils on campus, ending its use of chemical fertilizers (see earlier post).

9. College of the Atlantic Bar Harbor, ME
The school says it became the first carbon-neutral campus in 2007.

10. Hampshire College Amherst, MA
The college’s 800-acre campus features a number of LEED-certified buildings.

Check out the top 100 green schools and other campus sustainability resources schools can tap. See other major green school rankings, The College Sustainability Report Card and The Princeton Review.

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

One thought on “Sierra Club’s Top 100 Green Schools

  1. muszynska 09/10/2010 / 5:05 pm

    Is the school across the street cool? I am not sure how cool the school across the street really is. Is there a possibility of bringing the sort of education this article lauds to, for example the technical high school across the street from me in Toronto, Canada? I think the teenagers who attend this school need some “green” guidance, and a Sierra Club ‘contest’ notification could be used here, at a high school level. Schools like this one could become a model for other high schools by ‘illuminating’ their growth through the understanding of building green and healthy places to learn. Thank you.

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