UC Santa Cruz among greenest universities in Sierra Club ranking

UC Santa Cruz was No. 18 in Sierra magazine's "Cool Schools" ranking
UC Santa Cruz was No. 18 in Sierra magazine's "Cool Schools" ranking.  (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

UC Santa Cruz is one of the 20 greenest colleges in the country, according to the Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” ranking.

Sierra magazine, the national magazine of the Sierra Club, today released its 10th annual “Cool Schools” ranking of America’s greenest colleges and universities. UC Santa Cruz is one of three UCs to be in the top 20.

Coming in at No. 18, the ranking underscored UC Santa Cruz’s strong commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate change, and encouraging sustainability.

“UC Santa Cruz has been an innovator in many areas of sustainability for several years, most notably in academic programs, social justice, food, transportation, and water conservation,” said Sustainability Director Elida Erickson. “The fact that UC Santa Cruz ranks within the Top 20 in an increasingly competitive field of up-and-coming institutions speaks strongly to the ongoing commitment of our students, faculty, staff, and campus administrators to the values of sustainability.”

More than 200 schools participated in Sierra’s extensive survey about sustainability practices on their campus. Using an updated, customized scoring system, Sierra’s researchers ranked each university based on its demonstrated commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

Sierra magazine wrote, "Thanks in part to a group called Students for Organic Solutions, 33 percent of UCSC’s cafeteria budget goes toward organic ingredients that were produced no farther than 250 miles from Santa Cruz, including from the university’s own 30-acre farm, where students learn how to grow pesticide-free food.

"The Banana Slugs also run their own bicycle library, and the school reduced its water use by 36 percent between 2005 and 2015.The campus is full of old-growth redwood trees and wild deer, and boasts epic views of the Monterey Bay."

UC Santa Cruz earned 670 points, with a perfect score in “Innovation.” In its report, the campus cited its work toward becoming zero-waste, its participation in the Cool Campus Challenge, its creation of a carbon neutrality roadmap, and the ambitious plan developed by UC Santa Cruz researchers to use the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS) to detect and forecast the ecological impacts of climate change in California.

UC Santa Cruz has marked a number of sustainability achievements recently:

  • Kristy Kroeker, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was awarded a $875,000 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
  • Andrew Fisher, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences, coauthored comprehensive recommendations for forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in California
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the waste reduction accomplishments of UC Santa Cruz Dining Services, a participant in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

“This year is the 10th anniversary of the Cools Schools rankings and we are thrilled by the record number of schools that participated. This huge response shows that colleges are taking the lead on addressing climate change,” says Jason Mark, Sierra’s editor in chief. “We’re seeing schools commit to renewable energy purchasing, buying electric vehicles for their campus fleets, reducing their water usage, offering organic food in the cafeterias and offering dozens of environmental studies courses. These schools are instilling in the minds of their students the importance of adopting conservation values in their day-to-day activities.”

College of the Atlantic earned the top spot. Other UCs that placed in the top 20 include Irvine (No. 3) and Davis (No. 8).

“I’m so inspired to see the incredible progress that colleges and universities are making when it comes to environmental sustainability,” says Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “Sierra magazine’s Cool Schools rankings help to recognize those schools that have made sustainability a key part of their mission, and are creating future environmental leaders.”

The full ranking of 202 colleges, including each school’s completed questionnaire, can be found online.