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Sierra Magazine Announces the Nation's Coolest Schools

University programs celebrated for green efforts, sustainable initiatives, and immersive environmental education

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Sierra magazine announces the fifth annual ranking of the nation’s “Coolest Schools,” a salute to the efforts of U.S. colleges that help solve climate issues and operate sustainably. The cover feature spotlights the schools that are making a difference for the planet, from UC Irvine’s energy-efficiency standards to Stanford’s commitment to maintaining undeveloped open space to Green Mountain College sourcing nearly half of its energy from, yes, cow manure.

“When students take what they’ve learned in the classroom and proceed to get their hands dirty in the real world, they realize the potential they have to make a difference,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor-in-chief. “We’re thrilled to highlight these forward-thinking schools for emphasizing environmental responsibility, and for teaching, inspiring, and empowering students to affect real change.”

This year’s top schools prove that schools of all sizes – the University of Washington has 40,000 students, while College of the Atlantic has 321 – are taking dramatic action to help preserve the planet and its resources.

Sierra Magazine’s top 20 schools of 2011 are:

1.University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
2.Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
3.University of California, San Diego (San Diego, CA)
4.Warren Wilson College (Asheville, NC)
5.Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
6.University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
7.University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
8.University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)
9.Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA)
10.Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)
11.University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)
12.Appalachian State University (Boone, NC)
13.Colby College (Waterville, ME)
14.Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA)
15.University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
16.University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
17.Clark University (Worcester, MA)
18.Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
19.Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
20.University of Maryland (College Park, MD)

The University of Washington, in particular, has shown a true commitment to greening its campus and providing students and faculty with departments and programs that focus on environmental responsibility, including the Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest, the Alaska Salmon Program, and the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health. In addition, UW’s campus gets 90% of its energy from hydropower.

Sierra also featured the stories of educators and students who are committed to immersive learning, and who take their lessons outside the confines of the classroom and into the real world, to places like Bali in Indonesia, New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and Utah’s Navajo Nation.

According to a 2010 Princeton Review report, 64% of prospective college students take a university’s commitment to environmental issues into consideration when deciding where to apply and enroll. Students care deeply about green issues and are attracted to institutions that are working hard to solve environmental problems. The complete rankings, with comprehensive descriptions of each school’s environmental efforts, are available online at

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, please visit