Three of the four faith-based colleges and universities in the top 20 in the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” 2018 list were Jesuit-affiliated institutions.
The annual ranking assesses the curriculum, facilities and practices regarding environmental stewardship and sustainability of colleges, universities and community colleges in Canada and the United States.
Assessment is based on information submitted voluntarily by the schools, which is then reviewed, verified and assessed by Sierra Club staff.
A record 269 institutions provided data this year, with the 2018 rankings released on Aug. 27.
“Our scoring system reflects the broader priorities of the Sierra Club,” an FAQ stated. “For example, we award a significant percentage of points in the areas of campus energy use, transportation and fossil fuel divestment because the Sierra Club believes that progress in these sectors is essential for addressing the climate crisis.”
Jesuit-affiliated Seattle University (8 of 269) is the highest-ranking faith-based institution for 2018.
“Seattle U students put the fossil fuel divestment challenge to their administration six years ago and never piped down. As a result, the trustees are on track to approve divestment this fall,” Sierra Club stated in its explanation of Seattle University’s ranking. “The very edible campus has been pesticide-free since 1979, and its 50-acre urban wildlife sanctuary is designed to attract birds with lush, native flora. … Seattle U is working to become carbon negative by 2020.”
The other faith-based schools making the top 20 are:
- American University (12): United Methodist Church; Washington, D.C.
- Santa Clara University (13): Jesuit; Santa Clara, California.
- Loyola Marymount University (18): Jesuit; Los Angeles.
Sierra Club reported that American University reached carbon neutrality two years ahead of its target, highlighted Santa Clara’s food- and eco-justice curriculum and initiatives, and noted that Loyola Marymount has been a long-time leader in innovation regarding recycling and repurposing.
Faith-based institutions were well-represented outside the top 20 as well, including:
- Emory University (28): United Methodist Church; Atlanta.
- Loyola University Chicago (37): Jesuit; Chicago.
- Johns University (64): Roman Catholic; New York City.
- Belmont University (65): Christian, nondenominational; Nashville, Tennessee.
- Berea College (101): Christian, unaffiliated; Berea, Kentucky.
- Luther College (113): Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Decorah, Iowa.
- Muhlenberg College (123): ELCA; Allentown, Pennsylvania.
- Lawrence University (160): Christian, nondenominational, St. Lawrence County, New York.
- Earlham College (176): Quaker; Richmond, Indiana.
- Eastern Mennonite University (177): Mennonite Church, USA; Harrisonburg, Virginia.
- Guilford College (189): Quaker; Greensboro, North Carolina.
- Villanova University (192): Roman Catholic; Villanova, Pennsylvania.
- Mary’s College of California (199): Roman Catholic; Moraga, California.
- Baylor University (204): Baptist; Waco, Texas.
- Calvin College (211): Christian Reformed Church; Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Hope College (217): Reformed Church in America; Holland, Michigan.
- Gonzaga University (241): Roman Catholic; Spokane, Washington.
- Creighton University (248): Roman Catholic; Omaha, Nebraska.
- Messiah College (261): Christian, nondenominational; Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
- Juniata College (269): Church of the Brethren; Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
“Our results show that while many universities are making admirable progress, no school has yet attained complete sustainability,” Sierra Club stated in a publication explaining its scoring system. “In higher education, as in the rest of society, there is room for improvement.”