UC Santa Cruz among Sierra magazine's top 25 cool schools  

Students walking at Farm
In the year ahead, UC Santa Cruz will take some major strides, including bringing a new solar array online and addressing recycling contamination on campus. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Reflecting a campuswide commitment to the long-term health of the Earth, UC Santa Cruz is among Sierra magazine's top 25 "Cool Schools" for 2019. 

The campus earned high marks for research, curriculum, and transportation. 

“UC Santa Cruz has done an amazing job of aligning its foundational sustainability values with tangible actions, and this achievement speaks strongly to that,” Sustainability Director Elida Erickson said. 

UC Santa Cruz moved up to the 21st spot on the ranking from the 23rd spot in 2017. Other UCs on the list include Berkeley (No. 16), Merced (No. 6), and Irvine (No. 2).

Sierra magazine has been ranking universities for 13 years, and a record 282 schools participated this year. Sierra noted that its ranking focuses on what universities offer "the best sustainability-focused courses, ecofriendly cafeteria provisions, and carbon-neutral land and energy policies, as well as the most opportunities to engage with the environmental movement."

Over the next year, UC Santa Cruz will continue to make sustainable strides. Its first major solar photovoltaic array, at the East Remote Parking lot, will come online. The 2.1 megawatt array will provide about 21 percent of the main campus’ electrical needs. 

The campus is also taking significant challenges head-on, including recycling contamination on campus in the midst of major changes in the global recycling market.

“UCSC has many exciting opportunities to continue to improve our sustainability performance over the years ahead, and will continue to directly engage students in this important work,” Erickson said. 

Sierra's ranking is based on the information universities provide to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS). 

UC Santa Cruz once again achieved gold status, the second-highest honor. Platinum is the top level, which was achieved by only five universities.

AASHE assesses universities in 17 areas, ranging from curriculum to purchasing.

For STARS, UC Santa Cruz was highlighted as a top performer in the Investment and Finance category. The campus was the highest ranked University of California campus in this lineup, tying with UC Merced for the fifth spot. UC Berkeley was ranked No. 8 and UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara tied for ninth place. 

UC Santa Cruz tied for sixth place in a ranking that reviewed universities conducting research focused on sustainability.

The pioneering work of the People of Color Sustainability Collective was highlighted in the STARS report (PDF link).

"The People of Color Sustainability Collective (PoCSC) at the University of California Santa Cruz aims to make UCSC a leader in environmental justice, in recognition of our changing demographics and pressing ecological challenges," the report notes. "PoCSC is accomplishing this by raising awareness about the contributions that people of color have made to the environmental sustainability movement; reexamining the definition and values of the sustainability movement to identify how it can be more inclusive of all underrepresented populations; and creating dialogue about environmental justice through student discussion spaces, social media awareness campaigns, workshops, and speaker presentations."

The report is public, and can be viewed online. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is designed by AASHE to be a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.