Campus gets high honors in Sierra Club Coolest Schools rankings

UC Santa Cruz students throw pizza crusts into compost containers, scribble notes on recycled paper, and drink mass quantities of shade-grown organic cafeteria coffee during finals week.

To young scholars who are accustomed to using recycling bins and chewing vegan taquitos, the greening of UC Santa Cruz is not exactly front-page news.

But the campus has been getting high-profile reassurance that its sustainability efforts are paying off. Sierra magazine, published by the Sierra Club, America's oldest, largest environmental organization, and the Princeton Review, an admissions consulting, standardized test preparation and college guidebook-producing company, have both recognized UCSC as a green leader this month.

The Sierra Club named UCSC its 11th ranked green school in a survey and article released this week in its fourth-annual "Coolest Schools" issue. Meanwhile the Princeton Review selected UCSC as part of its Green Honor Roll Colleges, which means UCSC received the review's highest green rating, a 99, in its most recent survey results.

UCSC has every reason to be proud, said Avital Binshtock, Sierra magazine's lifestyle editor.

"UCSC did very well," she said. "They only missed the top 10 by four-tenths of a point."

Other UC schools appear on the Sierra Club roster and on the Princeton Review honor roll--but UCSC is the only campus in the system that got high honors on both lists this year. That's quite a feat considering the stiff competition. The Sierra Club sent out an 11-page questionnaire to 900 colleges and universities, with detailed questions regarding sustainability efforts. In response, the magazine received 163 filled-out surveys.

Aurora Winslade, UCSC's sustainability manager, was thrilled about the double-shot of recognition.

"This reflects the passion of people who are willing to put in the time to create a healthier campus," Winslade said. "The campus continues to be a leader in sustainable foods. We are increasing our recycling and composting efforts and energy efficiency."

The campus ranked seventh in the nation on last year's Sierra magazine green list, though the magazine's editors attributed this slight drop to the magazine's revised ranking criteria.

The magazine made a special mention of UCSC's "impressive 73 percent waste-diversion rate and plan to reach 100 percent by 2020."

On the Sierra green list, UCSC tied with Middlebury, and beat out the University of Colorado, now ranked at 13. Overall, UCSC scored an 82 percent rating--impressive, considering the top-ranked school got 88.6 percent.

The campus scored especially high in the food-sourcing category, with 20 percent of cafeteria food grown within 100 miles of campus. A full 100 percent of coffee and tea served on campus is organic. A total of 15 percent of food served in UCSC cafeterias is USDA certified organic.

Sierra's Binshtock considered UCSC "green" even before guiding the ranking project at the magazine.

"That's what Santa Cruz is all about," she said. " I live in San Francisco, and I knew people who grew up there and went to UCSC. They all have the mindframe that nature is important and should be celebrated and loved."