UConn, Not Alabama, Is #1!*

*  As The Greenest University In The US, Not Football

While the University of Alabama is widely expected to win their 3rd consecutive college football national championship in the season that starts in about 10 days, the Crimson Tide is not even listed in a more important (IMHO) (many would disagree) (oh well!), if much less well-known poll:  Sierra’s (the magazine of the Sierra Club) “Cool Schools” ranking of the Greenest Colleges and Universities in the US.  That designation, announced Thursday, goes to the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

There are parallels between the two:  The Tide was lauded by Sports Illustrated in its College Football Preview issue for excellence in all 3 phases of football  (offense, defense and special teams);  UConn was recognized by Sierra for top quality performance in 3 phases of sustainability:

  • Sustainability Course Work:  UConn offers almost 600 sustainability-related classes and more than 40% of UConn’s research faculty does original academic work that benefits the environment.
  • Water/Energy Efficiency:  Since 2005, the Storrs campus has slashed water use by 15%—since 2011, “13 of its buildings were retrofitted to prevent 2,640 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.”
  • Healthy/Sustainable Dining:  ”30% of meal options are vegetarian, more than a quarter of the food is processed within 100 miles, and many ingredients are harvested right on campus.”

UConn Green #1

UConn students plant vegetables in their on-campus garden

Neither school makes both lists; in fact, only Stanford does: They check in at  #2 in SI and #7 in Sierra.  Maybe The Cardinal should change their colors to green!  Click here for the entire Sierra ranking list of 162 colleges and universities.  Did your school make it?

Of course Sports Illustrated is not the only pre-season college football poll.  And Sierra is not the only poll of the greenest universities.  The Princeton Review offers up its “Green Honor Roll”, a Top 22 which includes neither UConn nor Alabama (Stanford is on that list, which is offered up alphabetically, not 1-22).  The Association For The Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has a STARS Gold-Silver-Bronze system.  UConn and Stanford both earned a Gold rating and Alabama is not rated.

College football has, over the decades, morphed from a bizarre system in which polls decided the national champion to a national championship game in which the two participants were selected by a computer-calculated formula that combines several polls.  In 2014, the system is being altered again, with a 4-team playoff.  Those 4 teams will be selected by a committee that will, it is expected, use an amalgam of polls as the basis for their selections.  Having one system, with a champion decided on the field, has helped college football immeasurably

The Green Campus movement needs one standard, if for no other reason than it is time consuming for staffers at the colleges and universities to respond to each of the very detailed questionnaires.  Only a few schools fill out all three.  Many, including NYU, where I got MBA, participate in just one because of the time constraints.

Rutgers, my undergrad alma mater, did not participate in any of the polls.  This is a shame as the State University of New Jersey is the home of a terrific Environmental Sciences department and also has a 1.4 megawatt solar farm.  I reached out to the Environmental Sciences department  to see why they’re not participating in the rankings but have not heard back.  I’ll let you know what I find out.  Given the scandals in the Athletics Department, Rutgers should look to get good PR wherever it can.

Of course, very few people will care about the Green School rankings while millions will debate the football polls.  I get it–football is fun.  Heck, in Alabama, it’s life itself.  And, while I’m not naive to think that you’ll get talk radio shows devoted to debating Green School rankings (although that would be funny:  ”Vinnie From Queens, you’re on Green Radio!”  ”Ya know, I think Dickinson College is for real.  Their on-site wind farm shows real promise and I like what they’re doing in the classroom!”), I do believe there are ways to combine the on-campus passions for college football and sustainability.

One idea would be to have a contest, conference by conference, to see which football stadium recycles the most per fan (thus taking into account the variation in stadium capacity).  The winning school gets an extra football scholarship to offer the next season and the football team endows a new chair in environmental science (or related fields).

Feel free to submit your own ideas.  And let me know where you went to school and if your alma mater made one of the green lists.  And, even though I’ll root for Rutgers like crazy when they open up at Fresno in a week or so, I’ll also pull for UConn, the Greenest University in the US.

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