OSU tops ‘Cool School’ list for the state, 11th in nation

Utilization of solar power is just one of the ways OSU is lowering its carbon footprint.

Utilization of solar power is just one of the ways OSU is lowering its carbon footprint.

Oregon State University has once again proven that for us, it’s easy being green. The university has been honored for its commitment to sustainability, making it one of the top green colleges in the nation.

The Sierra Club has released its “Cool Schools” rankings based on the ‘greenness’ of participating universities, and Oregon State has the highest green ranking in the state, and is listed as 11th in the nation, rising from 24th in 2010.

Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator, said he is excited to see the university being honored by the Sierra Club.

“I’m delighted we have again been recognized for our sustainability efforts by the Sierra Club,” Trelstad said. “It showcases OSU’s strength in sustainability – a multifaceted approach that includes student engagement, reducing negative environmental impact, outstanding research and long-term cost savings, all aligned with OSU’s mission.”

“The recognition of Oregon State by the Sierra Club and its Cool Schools program helps the university by supporting our outreach and educational activities,” he added. “Several times in the past year, I have heard of students who, when they were thinking about where to pursue higher education, selected OSU because of its reputation for taking sustainability seriously.”

The Cool Schools ranking is open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the nation. The award honors 162 colleges that are helping to solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably. Evaluations were based on survey information provided by the participating schools, as well as follow up inquiries and outside sources.

Oregon State’s emphasis on “being green” begins the moment when new students come on campus, according to the survey. Sustainability is a large part of the university’s new student orientation, including zero-waste food events, a Sustainability Fair, and an emphasis on recycling in the residence halls.

OSU has been honored for its efforts at supporting alternative transportation for students, faculty and staff living off campus, including ride sharing, a campus shuttle system, bike parking and lockers, utilization of Corvallis transit and WeCar sharing.

There are a number of active green student groups on the Oregon State campus, including the Student Sustainability Initiative, which is involved in everything from the restoration of local watersheds to composting on campus to sustainable food projects.

OSU offers hundreds of courses on campus with a sustainability emphasis, ranging from “Sustainable Forest Management” to “Renewable Energy Alternatives: Economics and Technology.” There are even study abroad programs with a sustainability focus to places like Australia and Costa Rica.

Other highlights include OSU’s leadership in the formation of Oregon BEST (Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) which helps Oregon businesses compete globally by transforming and commercializing university research into new technologies, services, products, and companies, all with an emphasis in renewable energy and sustainable products.

The campus participates in an annual, month-long Campus Carbon Challenge, which encourages students, staff and faculty to reduce their carbon footprint by changing their daily behaviors. There is an emphasis on reducing waste and using sustainable products in the dining centers, and around campus, a variety of alternative energy approaches have been used, including the utilization of solar hot water systems at the Kelley Engineering Building and at the International Living Center, which supply half of those buildings’ hot water needs.

To learn more about the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” survey, go to: www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

Lewis & Clark College came in at in 19th place, followed by Southern Oregon at 26th, Portland State University at 31st, and University of Oregon at 46th.

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