Sierra magazine names UNH one of ‘coolest’ schools for sustainability
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
UNH has been known as one of the most sustainable schools in the area for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that it gained national recognition. This year, Sierra magazine named UNH the No. 6 “coolest school” in the country. The university has been on the list before, coming in 32nd in 2010 and 11th in 2011, but this year, it made the top 10.
Sierra magazine is a bimonthly nature magazine put out by the Sierra Club, a highly awarded organization that has been in existence since 1892. For its 2012 list of the top 10 coolest schools, Sierra judged schools on 11 different categories, including education/research, energy, food and innovation.
Schools wishing to be considered for the list are required to fill out a lengthy survey and answer follow-up questions through phone or email. Sierra had 96 schools apply and the total scores were based on an 894.5 point system.
UNH scored a total of 653.36 points, with its strongest categories being innovation and planning, as it received perfect scores for each. Coming in first place on the list was the University of California, Davis with a score of 709.17. Also on the list were Stanford University and the University of Connecticut, which each had higher scores than UNH, as well as Yale University, which did not score as well.
The Sustainability Institute was established at UNH in 1997 and has since worked hard to make the university as sustainable as possible.
“A lot of people have said that UNH talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk,” said Colleen Flaherty, a faculty member in the university’s sustainability program. “It’s nice to see our work recognized.”
The program has done a lot in the past year that may have played a part in UNH making the top 10 on the list. Flaherty said that UNH’s great academic program played a major role in being honored.
UNH recently developed an ecogastronomy dual major, which focuses on the importance of food, agriculture and the environment. There is also a sustainable living minor, and, in the future, the university hopes to develop a sustainability dual major.
On campus, James Hall was also recently renovated and received a platinum rating for sustainability, the highest possible rating. The Sustainability Institute as a whole has a gold rating, although Flaherty said it is looking to go to up to platinum within the next year.
The program prides itself on many things, but its members are proudest of their focus on a wide range of sustainability, instead of one single aspect. The program is also known for the Ecoline from Rochester, as well as the dairy farm, which is the first organic dairy farm on a college campus.
According to the Sustainability Institute’s website, the Ecoline project is “a landfill gas-to-energy project that uses methane gas from a nearby landfill as the primary fuel for the COGEN plant.”
Students are a major part of the program and contribute to its success. However, senior environmental conservation studies major Ben Trolio said the program still has a long way to go.
“The Ecoline plant, organic dairy farm, Trash2Treasure and Sustainability Institute are all great initiatives that other schools can learn from, but the looming specter of climate change must drive this university to do more,” Trolio said. “UNH needs to build on its accomplishments, especially in regards to divestment from fossil fuel companies.”