LOWELL -- UMass Lowell is among the most “green” colleges and universities in North America, according to Sierra magazine’s 12th annual “Cool Schools” ranking.
To determine the most ecofriendly institutions, the rankings, compiled by the Sierra Club’s magazine, assess the performance of colleges and universities in everything from what they teach to how they obtain their electricity to their sources of dining-hall food.
At No. 22, UMass Lowell, which ranked No. 124 in 2017 and No. 165 in 2016, is among the best when it comes to “mastering the art and science of campus sustainability,” according to Sierra magazine.
“Our rise in the rankings reflects the diligence of all members of the university community in implementing sustainable practices in everything they do, from transportation and energy reduction to recycling and composting,” said Richard Lemoine, UMass Lowell’s executive director of administrative services, environmental and emergency management.
The Sierra Club received submissions from a record 269 higher-education institutions in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Canada this year.
Factors contributing to UMass Lowell’s strong showing include such initiatives as the university’s Sustainability Engagement and Enrichment Development (or SEED) Fund, which supports projects that enhance the physical environment on campus, and the Urban Agriculture Program, which grows herbs and produce at an on-campus greenhouse in partnership with Mill City Grows.
UMass Lowell’s gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education through the organization’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (or STARS) program also played a part, according to UMass Lowell Director of Sustainability Ruairi O’Mahony.
Sustainability has been identified as an important priority by UMass Lowell, through both its UMass Lowell 2020 strategic plan and its Climate Action Plan.
“We are very proud of this significant jump,” O’Mahony said. “It’s a real reflection of the commitment and investment in sustainability at the university under the leadership of Chancellor Jacquie Moloney.”
In determining the rankings, the Sierra Club evaluated colleges and universities using criteria that looked at sustainability in 18 categories ranging from curriculum and transportation to air and climate and water.
The university scored well in the categories of waste reduction, buildings and engagement with the public and campus on sustainability.