UC Riverside Named to Sierra Magazine “Cool Schools” List

Annual survey recognizes schools that have shown highest level of commitment to Earth-saving decisions

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UC Riverside was one of 96 schools appearing in Sierra Magazine’s list of America’s Coolest Schools.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)  —  The University of California, Riverside was listed as one of “America’s Coolest Schools” in Sierra Magazine’s sixth annual survey of the nation’s greenest colleges. UCR finished 58th among the 96 schools that submitted data with a total of 462.74 points out of a possible 894.50.

The survey “celebrate(s) the universities that have shown the highest level of commitment to making earth-saving decisions,” according to the article detailing the survey methodology on the Sierra Magazine website. The magazine is the official publication of the Sierra Club.

According to UCR Director of Sustainability John Cook, the university’s appearance on the list helps to bring recognition and awareness of the campus’ sustainability efforts.

“People pay attention to this,” Cook said. “About two-thirds of students who are planning to go to college take the sustainability practices and the environmental record of the school into consideration. So do people who are donating money to the school. And graduates are going into jobs where sustainability is part of the culture.”

In his role as the head of the Office of Sustainability, Cook oversees a variety of educational and pilot programs that seek to improve the university’s environmental footprint. Areas of emphasis include sustainability in academics and research, built environment, energy and climate protection, food, procurement, recycling and waste management, sites, transportation, and water.

“Most people on this campus don’t see the electrical bill that their office generates. They don’t see the greenhouse gas inventory and the impact that it has,” Cook said. “We are working on that, figuring out the total cost of doing business, working to find ways to do it better and educating people about how to do it.”

“One person turning off a monitor doesn’t make much difference,” he said. “But when you have 10,000 monitors, if everyone turns them off, that can make a tremendous difference.”

The campus is also embracing sustainable construction. In 2012 the School of Medicine Research Building received LEED Gold Certification, the first building on the UCR campus to reach that goal.

The Cool Schools list was compiled from the results of the Campus Sustainability Data Collector survey, a collaborative effort between the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) and the Princeton Review. The extensive survey featured more than 200 questions that addressed a variety of topics, including sustainability practices, measurable environmental goals and achievements. Each school independently submitted the survey and the results were tabulated by independent researchers.

Cook said that the survey was challenging and, in some cases, asked for data that was not readily available. Examples of these were how many academic courses were offered that contained sustainable content, how many energy efficiency projects had been carried out since 2005, and how much energy was saved. As a result, UCR scored poorly in a handful of categories, including education and research, investing and innovation.

“It’s not something you can just throw together,” he said. “We lost some points not because we don’t have classes on sustainability, but because we didn’t have time to do the investigation necessary to answer all the questions completely.”

Cook said that all the UC schools participated in the survey, but that its complexity led to some other schools to choose not to participate.

“There are some schools that didn’t want to do it because it is a huge undertaking,” he said.

The top finisher in the survey was the University of California, Davis, which scored 708.8 out of a possible 894.5 points. UC Irvine was ninth, UC San Diego 17th, UC Berkeley 20th, UC Merced 25th.

In February, UCR was listed among the Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges, an unranked list of schools that demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability. Cook said that over 700 schools submitted data to the Princeton survey.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756
E-mail: john.warren@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Office of Sustainability
Tel: (951) 827-1270
E-mail: sustain@ucr.edu

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