Every year, the Sierra Club ranks colleges and universities on their “coolness” or sustainability based on a set of survey questions the participating schools are given. These survey responses are then judged by members of the Sierra Club, Princeton Review, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The schools are then given a ranking out of 1000 points. For the year 2014, The University of California at Irvine received the top score of 814 points. So what’s the secret to sustainability and how do we make the University of Virginia more sustainable?
In many of these college and universities, the trend seems to be planning. Each of these institutions had plans and goals, like reducing rainwater run-off or using alternative sources of energy for 15% of what powers the university. The University of Virginia is moving in the right direction in these regards. The office for sustainability has created something called the 5 Year Plan which is a plan to help UVA become more sustainable and to meet current sustainability goals. The office of sustainability is searching for student’s opinions on what should be added to the plan as well which is intended to get the students on board.
Plans at other institutions like Lewis and Clark College in Oregon ensure that 25% of the food served is from less the 100 miles away. Colleges like Green Mountain College have students work on nearby farms using horses instead of tractors to plow fields. Universities like number six ranked Stanford uses reverse osmosis technology to conserve water. Another big push for universities around the United States is divestment which means converting from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy. A majority of the 10 colleges on the list already have programs like solar panels on their campuses or participate in a renewable energy credit program.
There are many things colleges and Universities can do to keep this earth a clean and green place. The top score this year from the University of California at Irvine was 814/1000 points. This is a very impressive score but there is still room for improvement; almost 200 points worth! Striving for excellence is something that just comes natural here at the University of Virginia and I believe that we will strive for excellence in the coming years in our sustainability efforts. Next year, many of us at the University of Virginia would love to see our school at the top of the Sierra Clubs list! Congratulations to all the schools who are exceling at sustainability. Hopefully other schools will follow your lead!
Link to Sierra Club’s “Coolest Schools for 2014”