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A Smaller List of ‘Cool Schools’ Leaves Out Some of the Greenest

Sierra magazine has once again released its list of “Cool Schools”—colleges that, by Sierra’s measure, are the greenest of the green. To which we say, “Meh.”

Since Sierra has had problems with collecting information and presenting a sensible methodology in the past, the magazine now relies on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, a collection of sustainability data supported by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

This year, the top five are (in order) the University of California at Davis, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Washington, and the University of Connecticut. UC-Davis was 16th in the 2010 Cool Schools list, Georgia Tech was 18th, and UConn was 49th. (Stanford and Washington were in the top five that year and in 2011, too.)

The methodology probably changes more than the colleges. But anyone in higher education’s sustainability circles would find the “complete list” of participating colleges fairly incomplete. Where is the University of Vermont? Where is American University, which earned a gold rating in the Stars rating system? Where’s the University of Colorado at Boulder, which topped the list only a few years ago?

It’s very likely that they didn’t participate, as the numbers of colleges have been going down year after year. Sierra’s complete list tallied 162 colleges two years ago and 118 last year. Only 96 are listed this year.

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