Dartmouth Ranked #1 for College Food in Sierra Magazine’s 2015 Rankings

Dartmouth College earned an impressive 49.89 out of a possible score of 51 in Sierra Magazine’s 2015 Cool Schools ranking in the food category to lead the list of 153 “four-year, degree-granting undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States.” The top ten for college food include schools in diverse eastern and western locations, but none in the American heartland or the southern states:

Rank School 51 (Possible Score)
1 Dartmouth (Hanover, NH) 49.89
2 Sterling College (Craftsbury Common, Vt) 47.00
3 U C Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif) 43.00
4 Villanova (Villanova, Pa) 42.83
5 Columbia U (NYC, NY) 42.71
6 Univ of  Washington (Seattle, Wa) 42.01
7 Chatham Univ (Pittsburgh, Pa) 41.53
8 Stanford (Palo Alto, Ca) 41.04
9 Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh, Pa) 40.89
10 Portland State U (Portland, Or) 39.63

Sierra’s “Cool Schools Scoring Key 2015” includes nearly 70 thoughtful and detailed criteria underlying the “scoring basis” and the number of specific points obtainable for each criteria. The possible score of 51 in the food category was based on these criteria: (1) 30 points, food and beverage purchasing policies, with institutions earning 1/3 of available points (10 points) by calculating the percentage of food expenditures that are local and community-based, or are third-party-certified responsible (certified organic, fair trade, etc.) and they also “earn a portion of the remaining 2/3 [20 points] based on that percentage;” (2) 7 points, pre consumer food waste composting; (3) 7 points, post consumer food waste composting; and (4) 7 points, vegan options. Seven points were allocable to organic garden, with institutions earning “all available points for having one or more programs that allow students to gain experience in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems.” However, these points were for a criteria included in the “full ranking” noted below and apparently not considered in ranking schools in the food category, although there is discretion in the scoring in the “food and beverage purchasing policies” criteria noted above.  Perhaps in determining 20 of those allocable 30 points, food sourced at a school café from a farm or garden on campus resulted in some extra points when such discretion was exercised.

The “Full Ranking” in determining “America’s Greenest Universities” was based on all 70 criteria with a potential score of 1000. Some of the criteria with the most potential points were energy consumption in buildings, 40 points; support for clean and renewable energy, 45 points; water consumption, 40 points, and storm water management, 40 points. The ten greenest schools include six large public universities (including three campuses of California’s state university system) and 3 small liberal arts colleges. Only the University of Washington in Seattle was ranked in the top ten in both the food category, detailed above and the full ranking based on all criteria, noted below:

Rank School 1000 (Possible Score)
1 U C Irvine (Irvine, Calif) 867.29
2 U C Davis (Davis, Calif) 787.46
3 Univ of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 786.91
4 Colorado State Univ (Fort Collins, Co) 782.90
5 Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt) 779.08
6 Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio) 775.95
7 U C San Diego (San Diego, Calif) 766.77
8 Univ of Connecticut (Storrs, Ct) 766.30
9 Lewis & Clark College (Portland, Or) 762.55
10 Univ of Washington (Seattle, Wa) 761.70

For the 2015 rankings, Sierra received 153 complete responses from qualified colleges, which do not have to pay to participate. Sierra ranks schools on greenness with the “hope” that its annual ranking will “act as a guide for prospective students who want to compare colleges based on the schools’ commitment to environmentalism.”  Further, Sierra contends that its ranking “also serves to spur productive competition between colleges, raise eco-standards on campus and publicly reward the institutions that work hard to protect the planet.”

For the 2014 rankings, which were reported earlier on this website, 173 schools, or 20 more schools participated last year than in 2015. In the food category, four of the schools included in the top ten for 2105 were also in the top ten schools for food in 2014: University of Washington, Villanova, Carnegie Mellon and U C Berkeley.

All of the colleges and universities that choose to participate in the annual Sierra rankings deserve praise for demonstrating to their students that they care about environmental sustainability and they “honor their students’ idealism by committing to the planet’s big issues” in the words of Sierra’s Lifestyle Editor, Avital Andrews. Sadly, the number of schools participating should be increasing, not decreasing by 20 as occurred this year. If your school has opted out of participating or has never participated, students, alum and concerned citizens should contact the institution’s sustainability coordinator or public relations office and ask them to participate. Click here to see if your college and university is among the schools participating.  The completed survey for each of the 153 school that participated are available by clicking on the name of the particular school in the Sierra rankings.

Frank W. Barrie, 10/11/15


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