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August 18, 2010

Who's the Coolest?

The new "Cool Schools" issue of Sierra magazine has some great stories about what's happening on campuses across the country, and it's inspiring stuff. If you're like me, you'll turn first to see whether your own college made the list of the top 100 greenest schools. The rankings are based on responses to a detailed survey the Club sent out earlier this year to more than 900 colleges and universities, and each school's score is based on factors ranging from the kind of food in the cafeteria to the curriculum and faculty. We did make one big change this year, though: we increased how much of the score is based on how a school gets its energy.

We increased the emphasis on clean versus dirty energy because we know from working with student activists around the country that it's just about the most important environmental investment a school can make. That's why the Sierra Student Coalition started a "Campuses Beyond Coal" campaign last year that targeted schools that still rely on coal power. The goal: to phase out coal and move every single college and university in the U.S. to 100% clean energy as quickly as possible.

Of course, some schools are already there -- and you'll find a bunch of them on the "Cool Schools" list. But what if your own school isn't on this list? Don't panic. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a coal-burning power plant out behind the softball field. Not every school we sent the survey to responded. If you don't see your school on the list, go to their website and check out what they have to say about their sustainability efforts. If you don't see some answers there, ask them why.

As it happens, my own alma mater, West Chester University, isn't on the "Cool Schools" list (they didn't return our survey) and does have a coal-powered steam plant. The good news is that they've already embarked on an ambitious plan to completely replace it with geothermal.  How long before they're ranked in the top 100 greenest schools? I'm crossing my fingers it happens before the next class reunion.

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Michael Brune

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