Getting greener (and cooler)

Here’s some very “cool” news about IU Bloomington’s effort to go green.

IU Bloomington is among the top 50 “coolest schools” in America, according to the Sierra Club’s sixth annual rankings of the nation’s green universities. No other Indiana college or university made the list and, among Big Ten schools, only Penn State ranks higher.

IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel, right, presents trophies and plaques to winners of the 2012 IU Spring Energy Challenge, a three-week effort to reduce electricity and water consumption on campus.

The campus placed 43rd in the Sierra rankings, which recognize schools that are both committed to environmental improvements and meticulous about quantifying the results of their efforts. Schools are evaluated in a number of categories, including energy, transportation, waste, water, purchasing and food, and earn high marks for such eco-friendly efforts as recycling, reducing campus carbon dioxide emissions and serving sustainable foods.

Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organizations with hundreds of thousands of chapters across the U.S. Its annual coolest school rankings appear in Sierra magazine, which reaches more than a million people across North America.

The Sierra ranking reflects the success of IU Bloomington’s recent green initiatives, as well as the campus’s rapid movement toward a vision of becoming an international leader in university sustainability by the year 2020, says IU Director of Sustainability Bill Brown.

Brown, who coordinates sustainability initiatives in academic programs and campus operations across IU Bloomington, credits strong administrative support, a campus master plan “infused with sustainability principles,” hundreds of faculty and student volunteer leaders, and a nationally recognized sustainability internship program with contributing to IU Bloomington’s progress toward becoming a greener institution.

He also points out that IU Bloomington was just the seventh school nationwide to report on its environmental advancements using a comprehensive sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system — STARS — that enables accurate, detailed comparisons with peer institutions. (In compiling this year’s coolest school rankings, Sierra used a subset of STARS data for the first time, Brown says.)

All of this adds up to IU Bloomington gaining serious green cred at a time when more and more prospective college students are considering sustainability initiatives in deciding on a school* and when the campus, itself, is making major investments in new environmental sciences programs and collaborations that will make it more cutting-edge, competitive and — dare we say it? — even cooler than it already is.

 * According to a 2006 Aramark study, 26 percent of college students rated campus sustainability initiatives as “very important” in deciding which college or university to attend. 



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