Green Mountain College Tops Sierra Club's 'Coolest Schools' List

Green Mountain College Tops Sierra Club's 'Coolest Schools' List

Green Mountain College tops this year's list of Sierra magazine's "Coolest Schools" -- a roster of the 20 colleges and universities that the publication scored the highest in combatting climate change and teaching students about sustainability.

Founded in 1834, Green Mountain College, a four-year liberal arts college in Poultney, Vt., has its own biomass plant (pictured left). Also for the past four years, the college has used energy from the Central Vermont Public Service's Cow Power program, which is fueled by burning methane from manure produced at Vermont dairy farms. The college has about 820 undergraduates and a student faculty ratio of 14 to 1.

Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, released its fourth annual Coolest Schools list yesterday. To compile the list, Sierra sent a questionnaire to 900 schools; 162 responded to survey that covered 10 categories -- energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and other initiatives.

The scores were based on the survey responses with followups by phone and email as needed. Out of 100 possible points, scores for the top 20 schools range from a high of 88.6, Green Mountain College's score, to 80.5, the score received the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Here are Sierra's Coolest Schools for 2010 listed in descending order of their scores:
1. Green Mountain College
2. Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penn.
3. Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash.
4. University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
5. Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
6. University of California, Irvine
7. Northland College, Ashland, Wisc.
8. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
9. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine
10. Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.
11. University of California, Santa Cruz
11. [TIE] Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.
13. University of Colorado, Boulder
14. Warren Wilson College, Asheville, NC
15. University California, San Diego
16. University of California, Davis
16. [TIE] University of Vermont, Burlington
18. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
19. New York University, NYC
20. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Of the 162 colleges and universities reviewed this year, Sierra named 100 to its "Cool Schools List." The University of San Diego just made the cut in the No.100 slot with a score of 58.6. The full list of rankings is available from Sierra.

Earlier this month, The Princeton Review released its 2011 Green Rating Honor Roll -- a list of the 18 colleges and universities that achieved the highest score possible, a 99, in The Review's third annual evaluation of sustainable practices, policies and course offerings in higher education. In all, 703 colleges and universities participated in the survey conducted this year for the 2011 editions of various Review publications.

Seven of Sierra's 20 Coolest Schools also made The Princeton Review's 2011 Honor Roll -- The Evergreen State College, Northland College, Harvard (although the university made Sierra's list and the college made The Review's honor roll), College of the Atlantic, UC Santa Cruz, Warren Wilson College and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Green Mountain College missed The Princeton Review's honor roll by just one point; the college achieved a score of 98.

Also yesterday, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education released its report, "Sustainability Curriculum in Higher Education: A Call to Action" (pdf). The 13-page report grew from ideas broached during AASHE's Summit on Sustainability in the Curriculum held this past February.

"For nearly two decades, many of us have been working with our higher education colleagues to provide education for a sustainable society," said Paul Rowland, AASHE executive director, in a statement. "These efforts have been fruitful, but they have not reached the hundreds of thousands of faculty we need to reach. The Call to Action lays out specific ways we can address the need to increase the scale of sustainability education over the next decade. Now it's time to move to action."

The report summarizes challenges posed by integrating sustainability into college and university curricula, current initiatives, opportunities and leverage points, and critical stakeholders and actions. The report also details recommended strategies for colleges and universities, non-governmental organizations, state and federal agencies and foundations.

The report is available for free download from ASSHE at

The Biomass plant at Green Mountain College, photo courtesy of Green Mountain College.