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Six Tips for Improving Your Rank as a Green School


Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on the Green Impact blog.

Sierra Club’s Annual Cool Schools rankings are out.  And the winner is … the University of California, Irvine. Congratulations, Anteaters!

After assessing the methodology and rankings of the top winners, compared to the others, I offer the following six tips for increasing your ranking as a green school:

  1. Participate in STARS;

  2. Tackle waste reduction, energy use, and water use;

  3. Create a sustainability hub;

  4. Craft and promote success stories;

  5. Tackle sustainable food; and

  6. Don’t shy away from SRI.

1. Participate in STARS

UCI, and the other top winners, are a participant in Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. American University, ranked No. 2, is STARS Gold rated.  The Sierra Club rankings are based on a survey, officially called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector.  Schools did not need to be members of AASHE’s STARS program to use the collector, however, I am sure reporting of the data is much easier for campuses that have already gathered the appropriate data into the STARS system.  Click here to learn more about how the ratings were scored.

2. Tackle waste reduction, energy use and water use

Based on UCI’s scores, it is clear that they have done an exceptional job of tackling waste reduction and reducing energy and water use. These are three low-hanging fruit areas that other universities can easily tackle. Green Mountain College ranked

3. Create a sustainability hub

All of the top winners have a stand alone sustainability Website. UCI has a stand alone sustainability hub, making it easy for faculty, staff, and students, as well as the community, to assess sustainability-related information.  Its site is divided into the following sections:

4. Craft and promote success stories

American University’s sustainability Website includes a news section that highlights success stories.  It also makes great use of social media to help increase engagement and promote successes.Dickenson College’s Website also does a great job of promoting success stories.

5. Tackle sustainable food

All top ten winners captured at least 30 out of 50 points in the category of food.  Points are given for purchasing local food, offering vegan options, and composting. American University’s program includes a weekly farmers’ market, a community garden, community supported agriculture, and sustainable food purchasing.

6. Don’t shy away from socially responsible investment

The campuses that are bold enough to authentically tackle socially responsible investing (SRI) have the potential to earn 70 points. Only University of South Florida and Green Mountain College (GMC) earned the complete 70 points in this category. In response to student request, GMC has instituted a new SRI policy to guide its investments in a responsible manner and create new educational opportunities. The Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee (SRIAC) was formed in the Spring 2010 to increase transparency and stakeholder involvement. Learn more about GMC’s investment portfolio here.

Images courtesy of the Sierra Club and the University of California, Irvine

Deborah Fleischer

Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic sustainability consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. She helps companies design and launch new green strategies and programs, as well as communicate about successes. She is a GRI-certified sustainability reporter and LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications.

Deborah has helped to design and implement numerous successful cross-sector partnerships and new green initiatives, including the California Environmental Dialogue, Curb Your Carbon and the Institute at the Golden Gate.

She has helped create lasting alliances among such organizations as Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy with companies such as Disney, Arco, Bank of America and Passport Resorts.

You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact or contact her directly at Deborah@greenimpact.com.

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