Gas station without pumps

2016 September 10

Seven UC campuses in top 30 on Sierra Club list

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:30
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In the Sierra Club list of “Cool Schools” for 2016, seven of the ten University of California campuses rank in the top thirty for sustainability.

rank campus score
  3 UCI  734.38
  8 UCD  714.50
 18 UCSC  670.87
 24 UCSD  657.99
 27 UCR  656.65
 29 UCB  655.00
 30 UCSB  649.18
 62 UCLA  595.56
 84 UCM  571.16

Note: UCSF is not ranked, because it has no four-year undergraduate program, just a med school.

Because the Sierra Club relies heavily on self reports by the campuses, it is not clear that the numbers are really directly comparable. Different standards will be applied in answering the questions, with some colleges really stretching the definitions in order to appear sustainable, and others having very strict standards in which well above average behavior and facilities are deemed inadequate.

Their point system is based on the Sierra Club’s particular beliefs about what is important (giving a lot of points for divestment from fossil fuel companies, compared to the points given for low use of fossil fuels, for example).

They also reward reductions in water consumption and energy usage “since an established baseline period”, but there doesn’t appear to be any uniformity in when the baseline was established nor any reward for having always been a low consumer.  A water-usage per student and energy-usage per student measure would probably paint a very different picture, with places like UCSC (which have always been sparing in both their energy and water usage) moving way up in the ranking.  Of course, energy usage varies a lot with the climate, and coastal California campuses should be able to use a lot less energy than ones in Michigan and Minnesota—but sustainability measures should not start out by giving bonuses for building in places that require unsustainable practices.

Some of their standards are a bit strange, giving as many points for a “bike-sharing program” as for “bike storage, shower facilities, and lockers”, and nothing for bike lanes/paths.  Bike-sharing programs are pretty much PR fluff on a college campus, but bike parking is crucial (though for commuters policies that allow bikes in the office are often better than lockers or bike storage facilities).

UCI, UCB, UCSD, and UCSC all do better in their transportation rankings than UCD, but I suspect that UCD actually has the lowest per-student or per-employee transportation impact, because the very much larger share that bike commuting has there.  They may be giving more points for public transportation than for bicycling, which would explain Columbia University being at the top of their ranking.

Unfortunately, the Sierra Club does not seem to have made the raw data from which they did the scoring available, so it would be difficult to redo the rankings based on different weighting of the criteria, and difficult for student organizations to determine where their campus is missing the mark, in order to push for improvements.

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