Cool schools 2014: Why does it matter?

Where does your school of choice rank on sustainability and why is this important?

Universities and colleges around the world with “green” programs participate in what is called STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assesment & Rating System (STARS). It is a “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance”. Higher education institutes across the country submit their annual sustainability reports, which are available to the public and ranked by class (Gold, Silver and Bronze). These reports outline commitments to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency & building operations (LEED), purchasing local food and products, transportation, waste, water, planning & administration, as well as a number of other areas related sustainability.

Why is this important? Students entering college are making decisions to attend schools of their choice based on a university’s commitment to sustainability and greening campuses.

It is also important because higher education institutes are not only being selected by incoming students based on their academic programs and degrees, but also on their commitment to making their community and world a better place. It also means that campuses that do not adopt sustainability concepts run a higher risk of losing a diverse, larger student body.

When asked, “Why are schools ranked on greenness?”, the response from the four partnering organizations – the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) and the Princeton Review – responsible for this report respond in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the study. They said, “We hope that our annual ranking will act as a guide for prospective students who want to compare colleges based on the schools’ commitment to environmentalism. Our ranking also serves to spur productive competition between colleges, create aspirational standards, and publicly reward the institutions that work hard to protect the planet.”

This clearly demonstrates that younger generations believe the concepts of sustainability are ethically and morally important, not only to their personal life but to their careers as well. While this is just a brief summary, it may be fair to assume that while the current generations headed for college are selecting institutes based on their commitment to sustainability, who is to say they will not be selecting places to live based on the same commitments once they graduate?

According to Michigan State University Extension, recent trends have shown that graduates and young professionals are selecting where to live based on the quality of life rather than a job offer; whereas, traditionally, people relocated based on the job offered and adapted to their surroundings accordingly. Cities, towns and villages may want to consider same or similar strategies institutes of higher education have to attract and retain populations. It could be a sustainable strategy!

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