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Sierra magazine ranks ASU as a top 'Cool School'

solar panels on parking garage roof
August 22, 2017

Today, Sierra magazine, the national magazine of the Sierra Club, released its eleventh annual “Cool Schools” ranking of North America’s greenest colleges and universities. Arizona State University ranked first among institutions with more than 10,000 students — up from second in that category last year — and seventh place overall. 

Sierra received complete surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools — in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and for the first time ever, Canada.

This is the third consecutive year ASU has scored in the top 20. The 2017 ranking does not yet reflect the impact of the Red Rock Solar Plant, dedicated in January 2017. Over the course of its first full year in operation, Red Rock will reduce ASU’s total carbon footprint by more than 10 percent.

The university continues to advance sustainability efforts by planting trees in local communities, expanding zero waste programs and offering sustainability certifications for events, offices, labs and more. ASU also opens its first net zero energy building this fall — the new Student Pavilion.

Each of the schools ranked in the top 20 have displayed a deep and thorough commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate issues, and encouraging environmental responsibility. Using a customized scoring system, Sierra’s researchers ranked the universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

“We continue to be inspired by the creative and innovative ways colleges and universities across the country are working to tackle the climate crisis and move toward a sustainable future,” said Jason Mark, Sierra magazine’s editor in chief. “From powering campuses with clean energy to educating students on new methods of sustainability, it is this leadership that is driving positive change and helping to shape a future that is clean, just, and equitable for all.”

Sierra magazine’s top 20 schools of 2017 are:

• College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine)

• Green Mountain College (Poultney, Vermont)

• Sterling College (Craftsbury Common, Vermont)

• State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse, New York)

• Lewis & Clark College (Portland, Oregon)

• Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, California)

• Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona)

• University of California, Irvine (Irvine, California)

• Colby College (Waterville, Maine)

• University of San Diego (San Diego, California)

• Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colorado)

• Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont)

• Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

• Chatham University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

• Colgate University (Hamilton, New York)

• Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

• University of the Pacific (Stockton, California)

• George Washington University (Washington, DC)

• Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)

• Oregon State University (Corvallis, Oregon)

“ASU engages its students, faculty and staff with sustainability in a number of ways,” said Mick Dalrymple, director of University Sustainability Practices. “Together with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and Zero Waste, our office provides the Seeds of Sustainability online training, trivia on inter-campus shuttles, free movie nights, a Green Devils Network and extensive speaker series.”

In addition, ASU President Michael Crow was among 14 presidents from the top 20 schools who signed the We Are Still In pledge to show their commitment to the Paris Agreement.

"Year after year, we continue to see young people leading the fight against the climate crisis and toward a 100 percent sustainable future. That’s why students across the United States and in Puerto Rico are pushing their high schools and colleges to not only divest from fossil fuels but to commit to 100 percent localized clean energy,” said Karissa Gerhke, National Director of the Sierra Student Coalition. “The Sierra Student Coalition applauds these leaders and their schools for their innovation and leadership, and we look forward to working with them as they continue to do this important work.”

The full ranking of 227 colleges and universities, including each school’s completed questionnaire, is online at

Top photo: Solar panels can be seen on the roof of the ASU Foundation parking garage on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASUNow

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