The Sierra Club’s Sierra magazine has ranked America’s greenest universities for the past eight years and has just issued its rankings for 2014. Colleges at the top of the annual “Cool Schools” are “dedicated to greening at every level of their operation, from energy usage to recycling to food sourcing to curriculum, that sustainability has become woven into their very culture [emphasis added].”
Participation in Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” ranking is open to all four-year, degree-granting undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States. For this latest ranking for 2104, college administrators could participate by going to stars.aashe.org to complete an extensive questionnaire about their schools’ sustainability practices. The questionnaire, officially called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector, is the result of the collaborative efforts of four organizations: the Sierra Club, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review.
Schools that submitted complete data by Sierra’s deadline were eligible for the 2014 rankings. Complete responses were received from 173 qualified colleges out of the more than 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Out of a possible 1,000 points, the top-rated university, #1 University of California, Irvine scored 813.51 “indicating much work completed but also room for improvement” according to the description of the methodology used for ranking schools.
The dining services of four schools in the Top Ten, American University, #2 with a score of 804.25, Dickinson College, #3 with a score of 803.44, Lewis and Clark College, #5 with a score of 759.18, and the University of Connecticut, #9 with a score of 743.05, received special mention. According to the report in Sierra by Avital Andrews and Don Dresser, at American University “By 2017, at least 50 percent of dining-hall fare will be from sustainable sources”; Dickinson College has “an organic farm that supplies the dining hall”; Lewis and Clark College’s “sustainable-food program helped it shoot up our ranking: At least 25 percent of ingredients served on campus are sourced from within 100 miles, and almost all of them are organic. Its cafeterias serve seafood that meets Marine Stewardship Council standards and meat that’s hormone-and antibiotic-free (the beef and chicken are grass-fed and free-range too)”; and the University of Connecticut “serves food that’s mostly local and seasonal, with lots of vegetarian options.”
The Complete Ranking, showing results for all 173 qualified colleges, notes that for evaluating the “food sourcing” of the greenest colleges, a perfect score would be 51.00. Here are the top ten schools for sustainable food sourcing: #1, Maharishi University of Management which achieved a perfect score of 51.00; #2, Lewis and Clark College, 47.84; #3, Loyola Marymount University, 46.43; #4, Mills College and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona tied at 43.63; #5, Warren Wilson College and University of Washington, Seattle tied at 42.16; #6, Villanova University and Kenyon College tied at 41.74; #8, Carnegie Mellon University, 40.96; #9, Cornell University, 40.47; and #10, University of California, Berkeley, 39.69.
Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, which scored a perfect score of 51.00 for sustainable food sourcing, is the first college in the United States to offer an organic, 100% vegetarian, freshly prepared menu and according to its website “serves a wide variety of vegetarian fare, from home-style pizza to Chinese stir fry, from Mexican to Indian cuisines.” The school bakes its own breads and pastries using organic flour and uses locally grown produce whenever possible. Milk, yogurt, and ice cream come from a local organic dairy farm.
All 173 colleges and universities that participated deserve praise for demonstrating to their students that they care about environmental sustainability. In the words of Sierra’s Lifestyle Editor, Avital Andrews, they “honor their students’ idealism by committing to the planet’s big issues.”
(Frank W. Barrie 8/17/14)