The Sierra Club’s Sierra magazine recently ranked UC Davis as America’s number one coolest school in its sixth annual ranking of the greenest colleges in the nation. Three years ago UCD ranked 24th, two years ago, 16th and last year, eighth.
“At UC Davis, sustainability is one of our core values,” said UCD Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi in a press release. “I am very proud of the students, faculty and staff who have worked so hard to make this achievement possible and to invest in a more sustainable future for our campus.”
The magazine received 96 responses and ranked all the participating schools based on an online survey called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector. This survey was created in collaboration with the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Endowments Institute and the Princeton Review.
Lifestyle Editor for Sierra magazine Avital Andrews said the main thing a school needed to do well on the survey was to do well in every category. The final rankings were calculated based on a scoring key. Andrews said there were 90 categories with specific criteria in each, with a total of 894.5 possible points.
“It’s hard to win this thing if you’re not really eco-conscious in every realm,” Andrews said. “So that includes everything from energy efficiency to energy sourcing, academics to purchasing, transportation to waste management, water usage, administration policies, endowments and investments. It basically includes every possible criteria we could have thought of.”
UC Davis obtained a score of 709.17, indicating that even the best school still has a ways to go and there’s no such thing as perfection just yet, Andrews said.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Sid England said UC Davis was able to achieve this ranking because of programs that range from energy efficiency to purchasing programs to waste management.
“We have our Smart Lighting Initiative, where we’re trying to reduce the amount of energy we use for lighting 60 percent in the next several years,” England said. “I think there’s a whole series of things when they looked at our submittals that led them to picking us as the top.”
Andrews said West Village really caught the Sierra Club’s attention since it’s the largest zero-net energy residential community in America.
“It’s really innovative in our eyes; the community produces as much energy as it consumes,” she said.
Davis is thorough about every aspect of good stewardship, according to Andrews. She said the school is very vigilant about using its purchasing power to buy things that are eco-friendly and that minimize harm on the environment.
“The waste diversion rate is very high; 67 percent of trash is diverted from landfills,” she said. “There’s a really extensive recycling and composting program compared to other campuses, and really good transportation solutions — more than 20,000 bike racks on campus, about 21,000 bikes on campus in any given day and the red double-decker buses are powered by natural gas.”
Two reasons were given when it came to the importance of schools to be green.
“One is just physical; campuses really operate like small cities, so they have the potential to create a significant environmental impact if they don’t make an effort to conserve and manage their resources,” Andrews said. “Also, kind of a more philosophical reason, if young people are surrounded by eco-positive lifestyles and educated about why it’s important and how to help fix it, it creates a desire in people to address the issues.”
England said UC Davis is continuing to invest in the statewide energy partnership program to increase efficiency of the school’s buildings.
“We’re constantly moving forward, trying to improve on what we already are,” England said. “We have to if we want to achieve the larger goals of sustainability.”
CLAIRE TAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.