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Appalachian Named Among Top 10 ‘Coolest Schools’ for Sustainability Efforts by SIERRA magazine

Aug. 15, 2012. For the sixth year in a row, SIERRA magazine is releasing its annual ranking of the nation’s “Coolest Schools,” and this year Appalachian State University has moved into the No. 10 spot. 

The rankings salute U.S. colleges that are helping solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably.

This is the third year Appalachian’s focus on sustainability has been recognized by the magazine, but the first year the university has been listed as a Top 10 school. Appalachian first participated in the magazine’s “Coolest Schools” survey in 2010.

“We are very proud that the Sierra Club has recognized our sustainability efforts at Appalachian,” said Ged Moody, university sustainability director. “Everything that occurs on a campus can be enhanced environmentally, economically or socially, and our students, faculty, staff and administrators have a long history of practicing and educating for sustainability.”

According to their news release, SIERRA magazine found commonalities among universities they cited as making a difference toward improving sustainability, including the areas of energy sourcing, infrastructure, transportation and academics. In addition, substantial efforts are being made to meticulously quantify schools’ efforts to attain their environmental goals.

At Appalachian, those steps include sustainability-focused or related courses, tracking of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the university’s carbon neutrality plan, and a 46 percent reduction in water use, and a 16 percent reduction in electricity and natural gas use as measured against a baseline established in 2002-03, according to Crystal Simmons, university sustainability specialist in Appalachian’s Office of Sustainability. The university also has a Committee on Investor Responsibility that makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees on socially and environmentally responsible investment opportunities. 

“Over the last six years, SIERRA has been privileged to connect with and learn from traditional institutions evolving in nontraditional ways,” said Bob Sipchen, SIERRA magazine’s editor-in-chief.

“With their ever growing emphasis on environmental responsibility, these schools are channeling the enthusiasm of their students, who consistently cite climate disruption and other environmental issues as the most serious challenges their generation must confront, while demonstrating leadership for other civic institutions.”

SIERRA magazine’s top 10 schools of 2012 are:

1. University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)

2. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.)

3. Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)

4. University of Washington (Seattle, Wash.)

5. University of Connecticut (Hartford, Conn.)

6. University of New Hampshire (Durham, N.H.)

7. Duke University (Durham, N.C.)

8. Yale University (New Haven, Conn.)

9. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)

10. Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.)

SIERRA magazine’s “Coolest Schools” ranking is open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States. In March 2011, Sierra sent a 12-page questionnaire to 940 schools, a list based on the widest collection of university contacts that the magazine’s researchers could amass; schools that requested a survey were provided one and encouraged to participate. SIERRA received 118 complete responses from schools, which the magazine’s researchers scored and ranked. There was no cost for participation, but schools that did not respond were not included in the ranking.

The complete ranking, along with stories about the winning schools’ environmental efforts, are online at www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

About SIERRA magazine

SIERRA is the official publication of the Sierra Club, America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 1.4 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation.

For more information, visit www.sierramagazine.com.