The Ten Coolest (and greenest) Colleges in America

Cool students at Colorado State, Boulder. Ranked one of the ten

This is a guest post by freelance environmental writer Tom Schueneman, publisher of GlobalWarmingisReal.com

Sierra Magazine has recently announced its list of the ten “coolest schools in America” for 2008.

For our purposes here “cool” doesn’t refer to the level of party, but to the school’s efforts to address climate change and sustainability.

Until recently, that sort of cool remained largely the domain of small, private colleges, but no more. The colleges ranking in this year’s list represent a diverse range of institutions, from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina with 850 students, to Arizona State, the country’s second largest, with 51,500 students. Being cool is in.

The criteria for ranking was based on ten categories established by the editors of Sierra:

“…policies for building, energy, food, investment, procurement, and transportation; curriculum; environmental activism; waste management; and overall commitment to sustainability.”

And the winners are:

  1. Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont
  2. University of Colorado at Boulder
  3. University of Vermont at Burlington, Vermont
  4. Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, North Carolina
  5. Evergreen State College, Olympia Washington
  6. Arizona State University at Tempe, Arizona
  7. University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida
  8. Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
  9. University of Washington at Seattle
  10. Tufts University, Medford Massachusetts

Shining Stars – In a League all Their Own

Eco League

Why not include the EcoLeague in the cool list? An association of five small liberal arts colleges, the Eco League’s primary focus is “environmental learning and the active pursuit of environmental studies”. To compare such tightly focused curriculum with schools offering a multitude of degree programs didn’t make for a level playing field, so Sierra editors made the Eco League one of two “Shining Stars“.

The five Eco League schools are:

  1. Alaska Pacific University
  2. Prescott College
  3. Northland College
  4. College of the Atlantic
  5. Green Mountain College

University of California

The ten campuses that comprise the University of California system are in a league all their own and the second Shining Star.

With a population of students and faculty of approximately 390,000 UC has the ecological footprint of a mid-sized city. But, unlike many cities, UC is addressing that ecological footprint aggressively, one campus at a time.

Environmental Leaders

As the editors in Sierra magazine point out, this is hardly an exhaustive list of all the schools making efforts to demonstrate and teach sustainability – coolness. But these ten schools, along with the “Shining Stars” of Eco League and University of California, represent the nation’s “environmental leaders”.

And we can always use more environmental leaders.

Photo Credit: Sierra Magazine

  1. Bobby B.

    I have a question regarding semantics and the greenolution. Whatever happened to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)? I thought the world was doomed because mankind was causing it to heat up. Yet surprisingly, the term AGW gets thrown around less and less these days. What gives? The freelance author of this post maintains a website entitled “GlobalWarmingIsReal”, but his post is about schools that address “climate change” and “sustainability”. When did the term “climate change” come onto the scene? Is it the result of environmentalists not being able to ignore a cooling trend over the last decade? If the world starts cooling, you guys simply drop AGW like a hot (pun very much intended) potato and create a new term for the crisis? Where is the commitment to the scientific consensus of the 90’s and the first couple of years of the present decade? I am so disappointed…

  2. Tom Schueneman

    Hey Bobby,

    Well, I think we’re losing sight of the point of the post. If that’s because I didn’t use the phrase Anthropogenic Global Warming, then my apologies, for nothing has “happened” to it, certainly not within the scope of this post. There hasn’t been any sort of meeting where it was decided to drop that line.

    Could you cite your source of this “cooling trend” to which you refer?


    “Climate change” is hardly a “new term” and has been used since long before I suspect you even knew there was something to deny. I think any real explanation of why climate change is a more accurate term in general might be lost here (and that it has always been that way- and certainly not to the point of this post)

    In any case, please don’t be too disappointed, real science pursued by real scientists continues.

    Thanks for leaving the comment on the 10 top schools addressing anthropogenic global warming.

  3. Bobby B.

    Tom, at 40, I am far from being a youngster in this discussion. I have been watching the greens rather closely since 1989, when I realized that socialism was alive-and-well and had taken refuge behind the banners of a myriad of front organizations. In 1991, I learned that the free exchange of ideas on college campuses only applied to those on the left, when I and all my Republican friends were denied access to an on-campus speech by Al Gore. However, no such rules applied to Democrats when Republican speakers visited. I have been a “skeptic” since long before the movement wrestled the term “denier” from those who would have us forget the Holocaust. That being said, one only has to read, listen and watch to realize that the term “climate change” is being injected into the more recent discussions of global warming, whether or not there was ever a meeting held to “drop that line”.

    Off the cuff, here are a couple of global cooling sources:




    Of course, everything is debunkable.

  4. Tom Schueneman

    Bobby: Well, I guess we could throw around age n’stuff. So at nearly 50(not sure how that happened), I’m no youngster either. I’ve been interested in, studying, and reading about environmental issues since I was a nerdy lad in the early seventies. Whatever.

    I’m not really interested in debating the terminology. If you’re certain that the term “climate change” is used more now and the reason for it, that’s fine by me. It doesn’t change anything. It’s a bit pointless to argue that with you.

    You seem to have had some bad experiences that have left a foul taste in your mouth for “greens”. I’m not sure if you’re equating an environmental awareness or concern with any particular political stance, but you really have no idea how any one particular person comes to their understanding of the world around them unless, of course, you know them – and you don’t know me.

    I otherwise don’t understand the relevance of your stories of being shut out of a speech by Al Gore in the early nineties. What does that have to do with this post? Are you condemning the colleges listed? Is anyone concerned or interested in the environment that happens to believe global warming is a serious and largely human-caused problem a socialist? What gives man? I mean really, what is the point of this entire thread?

    Anyway, thanks for the sources. I do have to say that relying on any blog, this one, the one I publish, the ones you cite, is not citing science (especially fox news). They can lead to further exploration, but we’re all just looking to back up our preconceived notions aren’t we?

    Try the national academy of sciences or the NOAA climate program if you want to start getting close to science. Talk to a real scientist.

    Anyway, I’m not going to change your mind, so I encourage you to continue your skeptical ways.

    That is, be a true skeptic.


  5. Bobby B.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Tom. I guess? So, at 50 I will be asking the same “how did that happen” question that I asked at 40? That stinks.

    You are correct in saying that it is nearly impossible to change a person’s opinions, because we all have preconceived notions about the way the world works. I do not know you nor do I know upon what basis you accept the AGW consensus. However, there should be no offense taken at someone who may have a difference of opinion that can be backed up with equally reputable sources. BTW, your dissing Fox News would be equitable to my dissing The Weather Channel’s environmental zealotry, which renders the point of either of us doing so moot. In regards to “real” scientists, I have my doubts that pure science exists in our modern world. Any names that I might mention, you would likely label corporate shills, sell-outs, deniers, etc. Any names that you would mention, I might label as university academics or members of organizations that create crises to continue the flow of research money from the tax paying population.

    I guess the point of the thread is to take an opportunity to get people thinking about the information they accept as gospel. AGW is taught in grades K-12 and on most college campuses as undeniable fact; much like Darwinism. The Al Gore story provides an example of dissenters not being given a voice. Now, not every environmentalist deserves to be labeled a socialist. However, since most greens want to change the behavior of whole populations to save the planet, it is not an entirely unjust parallel; albeit a bit stereotypical.

    Also, I have read many scientific studies that refute AGW, and I have a thorough understanding of thermodynamics, heat transfer, and black body radiation. Unfortunately, those presentations are so boring in the realm of the blog. If you have the time for a provacative read, follow this:


    Lastly, I don’t condemn any of the listed colleges for their efforts, unless the return on the taxpayers investment is given in lifetimes. Take care and keep posting.

  6. Tom Schueneman

    Thanks Bobby. If there is any hint of defensiveness I admit I sometimes am ready for the worst. On my own blog I get comments that run the gamut, including those full of, frankly, rage and stupidity such as “you’re all a bunch of pathetic losers” and going downhill from there. Not a lot of room for discussion.

    Not the case here at all. While I don’t see the need to debate the use of the term “climate change” vs. AGW, I appreciate your points. I probably don’t agree with many of them, but hey, what are blogs for, eh?

    So all I ask in dissent is an intelligent voice expressing a well-thought viewpoint, as should be expected of me. Thanks for providing that.

    One thing I will admit is my ambivalence to terms like “stop global warming” or “save the planet”. The best we might do is to save ourselves from ourselves. And “stopping” climate change (global warming) would be like standing in front of the Titanic. Mitigate and adapt (get the hell out of the way).

    So indeed, remain skeptical and challenge people’s ideas, which oftentimes aren’t their own anyway. There can certainly be no harm in that.

    One interesting point regarding education is a brief news summary I saw recently saying the CA governor Arnold S is refusing to allow a mandate forcing AGW be included in science textbooks. Not teaching it, just forcing its inclusion in the books as a separate subject.

    Anyway, thanks for coming on straight with me. And yes, I imagine that in ten years time you’ll be going “what happened” as well…

    I’m sure we’ll speak again.

  7. Bobby B.

    “One interesting point regarding education is a brief news summary I saw recently saying the CA governor Arnold S is refusing to allow a mandate forcing AGW be included in science textbooks. Not teaching it, just forcing its inclusion in the books as a separate subject.”

    As most people know, the Fairness Doctrine is a hot topic in politics. Prior to it being repealed by President Reagan, people of a conservative mindset had limited access to the air waves. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and talk radio existed as a kabal spoon feeding the “news” to the masses. Conservative talk radio and Fox News exist solely because the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. In the case of the classroom, there has never been any such thing as fairness. For example, Creationism cannot be taught – or included in text books – alongside Darwinism as opposing theories. I personally would have no problem with AGW being included in the texts and taught, as long as the opposing theories are included in the discussion. There are some scientific “facts” that stand on their own. However, when working in the realm of “theory”, it is truly a disservice to present only one side of the argument. I believe doing so would equate to indoctrination.

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