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ASU, Oregon named 2 of 'America’s Coolest Schools'

October 13, 2011

Editor's Note: Arizona State will take on the University of Oregon, Oct. 15, in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

Sierra magazine, a publication of The Sierra Club, has named Arizona State University and the University of Oregon as two of “America’s Coolest Schools” for their efforts toward sustainability. The cover story for Sierra’s September/October issue is its fifth annual listing of the greenest American colleges and universities.

The editorial team evaluated environmental achievements in 10 categories: energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and other initiatives. Special attention was given this year to the experiences students have outside the classroom.

ASU ranked 23rd on the list, and Oregon placed 43rd. Of the Pac-12 schools, only Washington, Stanford and UCLA ranked higher than ASU.

ASU ranked especially high on purchasing practices and also on efficiency, having just completed a $70 million energy performance contract in which inefficient interior lighting fixtures were replaced and six parking garages retrofitted with LED lighting.

The university also scored high on administration, with 22 dedicated employees directly or indirectly involved in sustainability, and on academics, offering a number of sustainability degrees and concentrations. Many ASU faculty members are internationally acclaimed for their work on environmental and sustainability issues. ASU also offers a freshman sustainability-themed class that is mandatory in many departments.

ASU shone in other initiatives, including Ecology Explorers, an award-winning outreach program that involves 2,000 students in 75 schools in the Phoenix area; the Arizona Water Institute, a consortium of Arizona’s universities focused on water sustainability; and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ community engagement program that has innovative partnerships with major arts organizations and with schools and hospitals across the state.

Oregon’s highest score was in other initiatives, including a passive solar lumber kiln project that reuses local wood resources which are typically wasted, converting them into valuable commodities. Another program, the Green Product Design Network, accelerates the introduction of greener products to the market by integrating green chemistry, product design, business and communications in the invention process.

UO also has a Sustainable Cities Initiative that integrates research, education, service and public outreach around issues of sustainable city design. Each year the school forms a partnership with one city in Oregon to assist that city with its sustainability goals and projects, through studio projects and service learning programs. In 2009-10, 350 students across five departments contributed more than 60,000 hours of service learning in Gresham, Ore.

Written by Sarah Auffret