CU-Boulder is no longer the reigning king of environmentally friendly colleges and universities across the nation, at least according to Sierra Magazine.
After Sierra Magazine gave CU the top spot on the “Coolest Schools” list for being green last year, the Buffs fell to 13th out of 162 surveyed schools with an overall score of 81.9 points, according to Sierra. However the lower ranking is not due to decreased sustainability on campus, said Dave Newport, director of CU Boulder’s Environmental Center.
“All our process indicators are up, we are doing more than we were doing last year when we were first [in the nation],” Newport said.
This year, according to Sierra, the magazine put more scoring emphasis on energy supply than last year, which affected CU’s score. When it comes to energy supply, CU is dependent on the utility provider because the school does not have access to as many renewable resources, Newport said.
“We’re feeling this, along with a lot of other schools; we don’t have a lot of control [over energy supply], the utility does what it’s going to do,” Newport said. “The University of Washington, who scored higher than us, has the benefit of hydropower.”
Even though CU’s clean energy supply is limited, under Colorado’s Amendment 37 Xcel Energy must produce greener energy, according to Renewable Energy World. Since the amendment passed, Newport said there has already been a large improvement.
“The quality of electricity is 14 percent greener since 2005,” Newport said.
Sierra created the rankings after evaluating surveys completed by the college or university, according to the article. The surveys were divided into ten categories, which were each worth ten points that focused on the school’s environmental goals and achievements.
The categories were energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and other initiatives. Any United States college or university with a 4-year undergraduate program was allowed to participate.
The Sierra staff then posted the list on August 16th, but soon data errors were reported and Sierra had to update the list, according to the article. The revised version led to six ranking changes and 12 other schools received minor score adjustments, the article explained. Due to the errors and changes, Newport said many schools are questioning the credibility of the results.
“There’s a quite a bit of controversy about the Sierra article and turns out they didn’t even do their arithmetic right,” Newport said. “They miscalculated, and a lot of schools are wondering if they even did the math right.”
Despite the miscalculations and the lower ranking, CU still beats out all other Colorado schools with Colorado College coming in next highest at 22nd place and rival Colorado State finishing 40th, according to Sierra. For a complete list of rankings click here.
Gabe Romano, a 19-year-old sophomore political science major, said he thinks the ranking, even with the controversy, is an honor.
“It’s great, it shows what we do as a community…I’m not surprised,” Romano said. “[Being green on campus] helps a lot, not just with Colorado. It helps as a whole.”
Barbara Petkus, a 22-year-old junior ecology and evolutionary biology major, said she was surprised for another reason.
“That surprises me that we ranked so high,” Petkus said. “I work at the recycling center on campus…I guess not a lot of things on campus strike me as green.”
While CU may no longer be top dog, Newport encourages students to continue to be environmentally conscious in three main ways: recycling, carrying a water bottle and refilling it and saving carbon through smart-energy consumption.
“It’s all the little things that matter,” Newport said.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Rose Heaphy at Josephine.email@example.com.