For the sixth year in a row, SIERRA magazine released its annual ranking of the nation’s “Coolest Schools,” a salute to U.S. colleges that are helping solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably. 

While researching the schools that are making a difference for the planet, SIERRA found common among the top 10  major actions taken toward improving sustainability across many realms, including energy sourcing, infrastructure, transportation, and, yes, academics. In addition, substantial efforts are being made to meticulously quantify their efforts to attain their environmental goals. 

From Stanford’s organic gardens which provide wheat for bread (and barley for beer!) to Duke’s practice of generating and buying offsets to UConn’s extensive recycling programs, schools across America are taking dramatic steps to help preserve the planet and its resources. 

“Over the last six years, SIERRA has been privileged to connect with and learn from traditional institutions evolving in nontraditional ways,” said Bob Sipchen, SIERRAmagazine’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, CA)
2.    Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
3.    Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
4.    University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
5.    University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
6.    University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)
7.    Duke University (Durham, NC)
8.    Yale University (New Haven, CT)
9.    University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
10.  Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) 

UC Davis, SIERRA’s number one school this year, stands out for its well-rounded set of sustainable efforts, including establishing rigorous green purchasing standards, diverting 70% of the school’s trash, and offering extraordinary transportation solutions: 20,000 bicycles park on campus every day. 

In a rush to effect tangible change now, a new trend among student “warrior nerds” is to put school aside (for a bit) to test their technological ideas out in the field; SIERRA’s “Cool Schools” package profiles two young inventors with radically different approaches to saving the world. SIERRA also profiles David Orr, an Oberlin professor whose plan, dubbed the “Oberlin Project,” seeks to transform his little college town into a worldwide model of how our species can live more harmoniously with the rest of nature. 

The complete ranking, along with stories about the winning schools’ environmental efforts, are 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

Amazing Grades: 101 Best Ways To Improve Your Grades Faster