Carolina ranked on Sierra Club ‘Cool Schools’ list

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Carolina ranked on Sierra Club ‘Cool Schools’ list


UNC-Chapel Hill is one of three N.C. institutions ranked in the top 50


(Chapel Hill, N.C.—Sept. 6, 2016) – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranks 39th among 200 colleges and universities nationwide, according to the Sierra Club “Cool Schools” annual sustainability report. The “Cool Schools” ranking serves as a guide for prospective students to compare schools’ commitment to sustainability.


Carolina was recognized with high scores in the categories of innovation, co-curricular activities, planning, food and water. In the decade since the survey was launched, Carolina consistently has been recognized as one of the leading U.S. institutions for sustainability.


Carolina’s ranking recognizes the long-term success of its many sustainability initiatives, such as reducing water use by 12 percent in the face of campus growth of 7.3 million square feet since 2000. The Carolina Three Zeros Initiative — the new campus plan to move the campus toward water neutrality, zero waste, and greenhouse gas neutrality — and newly published Sustainability Plan drove a top score in the planning category.


Carolina’s high mark in the food category of the ranking results from a variety of initiatives on campus, including sustainable practices in Carolina Dining Services, the new UNC Edible Campus project, the “Food For All” university academic theme and the Carolina Campus Community Garden. The co-curricular ranking rewards the high rate of student involvement in sustainability efforts on campus, such as the Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee, the Sonder Market — a sustainable, local, student-run grocery — and the EcoReps organization.


The Sierra Club, which is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States, bases the school rankings on sustainability data collected in a range of areas. The raw data for scoring comes from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) STARS self-reporting tool. The Sierra Club then takes the data and scores it across 64 questions. The scoring methodology was updated this year to reflect increased emphasis on climate-related issues.


“Continuing to transform UNC-Chapel Hill into a living-learning laboratory for sustainability will be a journey, and we’re only just beginning,” said Brad Ives, the University’s chief sustainability officer and associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises. “While we have already positioned Carolina as a sustainability leader among our peers, we are ready to embrace a host of new, sustainability-related opportunities by building upon our unique culture of service and innovation.”




About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 78 bachelor’s, 112 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty – including two Nobel laureates – staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 308,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.



About Sustainability at UNC-Chapel Hill

Carolina has been consistently ranked among the nation’s greenest colleges by the Princeton Review and acknowledged as one of the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools.” Carolina Dining Services and the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School are among the campus entities to receive special distinction, respectively winning the National Grand Prize for excellence in sustainable dining (NACUFS 2015) and third place ranking in Corporate Social Responsibility (Financial Times 2013). In 2016, UNC-Chapel Hill was the first public school in the Southeast to take on the commitment to The Real Food Challenge, and subsequently Carolina Dining Services hit the benchmark of serving 20 percent fair, local and organic food. Carolina achieved a Gold rating through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE’s) rigorous Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) program. This rating, achieved by less than a third of participating institutions, encompasses academics, research, operations, planning and administration, and engagement — with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gold rating reflecting existing successes in each of these arenas.


Sustainability @ UNC contact: Allison Reid, (919) 962-6288, and


Communications and Public Affairs contact: Jeni Cook, (919) 962-2091,