Sierra Club: New York Not Too Cool for School

August 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

The Slope at Cornell University. Cornell was ranked eighteenth on the Sierra Club's Cool Schools list. Flickr/eflon.

The Sierra Club’s magazine, Sierra, released its fifth annual “Cool Schools” list on Wednesday, ranking four-year U.S. undergraduate colleges and universities’ commitment to environmental sustainability.

While six New York institutions made the list, and Cornell and New York University were in the top 30, no New York schools made the  top 10.

New Yorkers talk a big game about sustainable living and green design, and environmentally-conscious measures have played a considerable role in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s agenda, particularly in his PlaNYC 2030 project (on July 21, Bloomberg pledged to donate $50 million to the Sierra Club). But compared to other states — California, for instance, took five of the top 10 Cool Schools slots — New York’s scores are a little humbling.

To create the Cool Schools list, Sierra sent out surveys to 964 colleges and universities, requesting detailed information about environmental goals and achievements. The analysis then broke down the data into more specific categories such as energy supply, environmentally focused academics, clean transportation initiatives and waste management. Of the 964 surveys sent out, 118 were returned. Sustainability scores were ranked on a scale from one to 100. The highest scoring school was the University of Washington with a score of 81.2, and the lowest ranked school was University of Nevada – Reno with a 30.8.

The highest ranked school in New York, Cornell University, came in at number 18 on the list, with a sustainability score of 69.5.  Cornell’s completed survey includes a lengthy assortment of facts testifying to the schools environmental commitment, for example:

  • Cornell has a farm on its campus, which has been focused on sustainable agriculture for over a decade.
  • 47 percent of Cornell’s academic programs offer sustainability-related courses.

Clocking in at number 28, with a sustainability score of 65.4, was New York University. While NYU scored relatively low in the areas of energy consumption and waste management, the school received near-perfect marks for efficiency and transportation. NYU’s manager of sustainability initiatives, Jeremy Friedman, was one of four institutional staff members profiled in the Cool Schools report.

“I see my job as creating the capacity for real change and then allowing countless individuals who care to lend their sweat and knowledge to the enormous task of transforming the world around us,” said Friedman. “We need to embed sustainability across all levels of society more quickly than any social movement in history has ever done before.”

Also on the list were Purchase College (# 78), Pratt Institute (# 80), St. Lawrence University (#83) and Syracuse University (#88).


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