Cool Schools

Sierra Magazine’s College Rankings: A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Eco-Enlightened U.S. Universities

Back in the day, high schoolers looking at colleges (and U.S. News and World Report) were mainly concerned with three things: prestige, location, and whether the place had a rockin’ social life. These days, however, applicants look for something more: a school with green credentials.

“Ten years ago, I don’t remember any student asking me about green campuses,” says Steven Roy Goodman, a college admissions strategist at “Now it’s quite common for students to be keenly interested in how environmentally responsible colleges are.”

Today, two-thirds of university applicants say that a school’s environmental report card would influence whether they’d enroll, according to a survey by the Princeton Review, a test-prep company.

Elite schools competing for the best and brightest have taken the cue. Harvard University leads the pack in energy efficiency, Yale University revolutionized its food operations, and the University of California at Los Angeles revamped its waste management.

For Sierra’s third annual ranking of planet-preserving colleges and universities, we e-mailed a lengthy questionnaire to sustainability experts at hundreds of schools. The survey covered eight categories: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, and administration. Schools could earn up to ten points in each category, and up to five bonus points if they had additional green initiatives.

Rather than focus on one or two issues such as energy conservation and investment choices, we sought a comprehensive overview of each campus’s sustainability efforts.

Live (Green) and Learn Honor Roll:

  1. University of Colorado, Boulder
  2. University of Washington, Seattle
  3. Middlebury College
  4. University of Vermont
  5. College of the Atlantic
  6. Evergreen State College
  7. University of California, Santa Cruz
  8. University of California, Berkeley
  9. University of California, Los Angeles
  10. Oberlin College

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