In the 14 years since Sierra started ranking colleges according to their eco bona fides and environmental commitments, one thing has become clear: Governments and businesses would be wise to take their cues from higher education. That’s because achieving carbon neutrality, divesting from fossil fuel companies, and incorporating sustainability into both campus operations and gen-ed curriculum have all become practically de rigeur in academia.
This year, a record 312 institutions participated in our annual Cool Schools rankings—a remarkable feat, given the fact it’s been a school year like no other. Beyond having to suddenly pivot to virtual learning and community-building because of the coronavirus pandemic, many schools had to backtrack. Those that had phased out plastic bags and takeout containers, for example, found themselves having to bring them back to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols. Despite such setbacks, the schools on this list have shown incredible resourcefulness as they have innovated new ways to maintain—and in many cases, further—their sustainability objectives.
Please join us in congratulating the following 20 tremendously cool schools. They’ve nearly mastered the most crucial subject of all.