The Sierra Club has released the results of its fourth annual Coolest Schools survey, which compares the sustainability, conservation and energy-efficiency efforts of U.S. colleges and universities nationwide.
Students traditionally have evaluated colleges according to three criteria: academic quality, location, and what kind of social life they can expect. While those considerations are no less important today than they ever were, an increasing number of students have added a fourth criterion to the list: schools with outstanding green credentials.
In fact, two-thirds of university applicants now say that a school's environmental record would influence whether they would choose to enroll, according to a survey by the Princeton Review, a company that helps students prepare for exams.
In conducting the survey, the Sierra Club sent an 11-page questionnaire to 900 U.S. colleges and universities, with questions in 10 categories: Energy Supply, Efficiency, Food, Academics, Purchasing, Transportation, Waste Management, Administration, Financial Investments, and Other Initiatives.
Individual questions were weighted according to their relative importance, but each category was worth 10 points for a possible total score of 100. The Sierra Club received responses from 162 schools and ranked them according to their total scores.
The 10 top-ranked schools this year are:
- Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont - 88.6 points
- Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania - 86.1 points
- Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington - 85.9 points
- University of Washington in Seattle, Washington - 84.7 points
- Stanford University in Stanford, California - 84.6 points
- University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California - 84.4 points
- Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin - 83.2 points
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts - 82.8 points
- College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine - 82.5 points
- Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts - 82.4 points
Along with ranking the schools according to their Coolest Schools survey scores, the Sierra Club also provides information about a number of related topics, from what K-12 schools are doing to advance sustainability to how coal-country colleges are embracing clean energy to how things are improving in China.
According to participating schools, the annual Coolest Schools survey not only offers students and their parents an easy way to compare colleges on the basis of environmental credentials, it also encourages U.S. colleges and universities to improve.
In one survey response reported by the Sierra Club, David Prytherch, sustainability coordinator at Miami University in Ohio, wrote that the annual survey "reminds us of what we've accomplished and how much is yet to be done. It helps encourage continued innovation, knowing that others are watching."