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  Sierra Magazine
  November/December 2008
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Getting Schooled
Readers respond to our 2008 guide to green colleges
November/December 2008

Sierra's September/October 2008 issue featured our second annual "Cool Schools" college guide, including a list of the top ten green colleges and universities in the United States. Like last year's, the package drew dozens of e-mails, letters, and online comments--both positive and negative.

University of Florida alumni Emily Whetsel and Lisa Miller wrote in to express excitement that their alma mater snagged the number seven spot. Many others complained about the issue's youthful aesthetic, calling it "offensive" and "jokester" (one reader even demanded an editorial coup of Sierra by senior citizens). As coeditor of "Cool Schools," I would like to remind readers that we designed the guide in part as a resource for college students and the college bound. This, after all, is the generation gearing up to tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges in history.

By far, the most common response came from readers wondering why their favorite school wasn't on the list or why it didn't rank higher. My colleague Lea Hartog and I ranked all of the schools using the same ten criteria mentioned in the introduction to "Cool Schools." While not every highlight and lowlight made it into print, they were accounted for in each school's score and rank. Of course, our list is not perfect (though we think it's pretty good). That's why we welcome your feedback and have posted your letters below. You can find and submit additional comments on the Green Life blog where a lively discussion is already underway. With your help, we'll make "Cool Schools" even better next year. —Michael Fox


Why not a Junior Sierra Club? As a senior, I am past interest in comic books. As someone with a disability, I find it distracting to have so many colors and images on a page meant for reading. Are you aware it is easier to read items in black and white?

It was humorous to have all those colors in "Ten That Get It". I didn't read any. Again, remember there are people with disabilities, and you are discriminating against them. We need a senior or elder takeover of the magazine.

Be fair, consider a quarterly magazine for the college and younger set. But please don't desecrate the quality of many of your articles.
Sandra Marlow (submitted by e-mail)

p.s. Would you consider an article on the forgotten victims of nuclear industry and the bomb?


What happened to the class the Sierra Club used to have? I have never seen such a terrible cover as I did in this issue. You make the magazine look like a comic book. If I weren't already a subscriber familiar with the Sierra Club, I certainly wouldn't have picked the magazine up!

Inside the magazine I see very little emphasis on wilderness and environmental concerns. Please, don't try to be "cool." Try to be informative, environmentally aware, and progressive--as the Sierra Club traditionally has been.

What happened, guys? Is it good material you are hurting for, or has the editorial emphasis changed to cater to kids rather than adults?
David Mills
Concord, New Hampshire


The comic book format, especially the cover, was particularly offensive. I was away on travel for a month. My wife was taking care of the mail, and told me she almost trashed the magazine upon its arrival, thinking it was some kind of jokester catalogue. Whose bright idea was that, anyhow?
Andrew Smith (submitted by e-mail)


I enjoyed "Ten That Get It," but I was disappointed and surprised that my alma mater, Stanford University, was not mentioned, since I know that the university has an active sustainability program and has been diligent in promoting many green programs.

I called the article to the attention of Joseph Stagner, the head of the university's environmental sustainability program, and I enclose excerpts from his reply:

"We have responded to surveys from the National Wildlife Foundation, Princeton Review, and Sustainable Endowments Institute over the past six months, but as far as I know the Sierra Club did not contact us directly. I'm not sure what they are basing their assessments on, but I think they just use university Web sites, and ours (Sustainable Stanford) is in the middle of a major updating.

"Because of this we have prepared a summary of our sustainability efforts for SEI and others that will provide us the opportunity to inform them of our progress prior to their assessments."
Julie Spickler (submitted by e-mail)


I think you overlooked Pitzer College in Claremont, California. They work extremely hard to be green and self-sustainable. Besides, my son goes there, and I'm proud of him!
Marlene Attaway (submitted by e-mail)


I realize that it is difficult to provide comprehensive coverage of all that colleges and universities are doing to be environmentally responsible. However, to not have included the University of Idaho among those that "get it" is a serious omission from my perspective. The University of Idaho's power plant facility has been almost exclusively powered by wood waste (chips and bark) for more than two decades via a state-of-the-art, high-efficiency, low-particulate-emission boiler.

Additionally, most of the irrigation needs for the campus grounds, including its golf course and athletic fields, are met using treated effluent from the community's sewage-treatment facility. Robust, multidisciplinary environmental science undergraduate and graduate degree programs, a highly acclaimed biodiesel research program (among the first in the nation), and a long-term commitment to a campus-wide recycling program provide additional documentation that the University of Idaho is among those that "get it."
Richard Heimsch
Moscow, Idaho


Arizona State University may be one of the nation's top ten "cool schools," but President Michael Crow runs the school like it's his own personal fiefdom. He fires or demotes faculty and staff who disagree with him. Tenure means nothing at ASU. Crow has turned the university into a money-making machine. Student needs come second to his overblown ego. And if one looks closely at Crow's curriculum vitae, which is available online, his past suggests a cozy partnership with Big Oil. The push to become green is nothing more than a quest to cover up Crow's misdeeds and make him look good.
Debra J. White
Tempe, Arizona


Yay! I graduated from number seven on the list, the University of Florida (complete with a lake on campus with real gators and an awesome bat house). We used to be the number one party school in the country. It's good to be number seven on a much better list! Next stop, number one.
Emily Whetsel
Oak Ridge, Tennessee


I was completely blown away to see my alma mater, the University of Florida, as one of the top ten green schools in the country. I have always been proud to be a Florida Gator, but this gives me more to brag about than our football and basketball championships.

Actually, in retrospect, I am not so surprised. As a student there in the mid-1970s, I recall a class I took as an alternative to the core science class required for my major. The textbook we used postulated that the driving force behind civilization in the future would be energy: how to find it, how to distribute it, how to use it, and, ultimately, how to control it as a commodity. Looking back, I realize that the author of that text was indeed prescient in understanding the critical importance energy would have on our world.

One other point bears mentioning concerning Gainesville. In the late 1970s, Gainesville built a new airport that was entirely powered by solar energy. It was supposed to be the largest building in the world run entirely on solar energy at that time. Since then, many other facilities in Gainesville have been constructed to use this abundant source of clean energy.

Yes, it's great to be a Florida Green Gator!
Lisa Miller
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Personally, I do not like the formatting of "Ten That Get It." I glance through looking for the ten. I found five. I would prefer information to be formatted directly and to the point in the beginning. I did not read the whole article and probably will have an aversion to reading the Sierra Club Insider due to formatting.

You may have guessed by now I like the USA Today style.
Francis Wanderlich (submitted by e-mail)


I've been a member of the Sierra Club for a while, and generally I think it's doing a great job. However, I'm a little disappointed with your top ten "Cool Schools" list. In fact, I'm downright unhappy. I'm especially disappointed that you didn't include my alma mater, which has been a leader in sustainability for some time.

According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), there were only six schools in the United States that scored an average of A- on their scorecard. They named these the "overall college sustainability leaders." The six were: Carleton College, Dartmouth, Harvard, Middlebury, the University of Vermont, and the University of Washington. [Editor's note: For the 2009 College Sustainability Report Card, 15 schools received a grade of A- or better across all categories; click on the above link for the full list.]

Being the leader in so many other areas, it is gratifying to see that my college, Harvard, is also a leader in this area. Why wasn't it included on your list?

On top of this, you then proceed to bash the Ivy League in your bio of Tufts, where you say: "Often teased for being an Ivy League wannabe, Tufts surpassed its prestigious peers in environmental stewardship years ago."

Besides being mean-spirited, it is simply not true. According to the SEI, two of the top six environmentally friendly colleges in the United States are from the Ivy League: Dartmouth and Harvard. In fact, according to the SEI, Harvard (A-) has a better rating than Tufts (B). That sure doesn't sound like "surpassing its prestigious peers."

I'm not happy about this. Not cool bashing the Ivy League. Not cool at all.
Gregory Bravo (submitted by e-mail)


I am writing to point out that Western Washington University was not included in "Ten That Get It." Western, and more specifically Huxley College of the Environment, has a long-standing reputation of being environmentally aware and proactive. Its award-winning environmental magazine, the Planet, is the only undergraduate-run and produced environmental magazine in the country.

Western's Vehicle Research Institute builds a variety of alternate-fuel vehicles, including many electric cars, and has a reputation for being on the cutting edge of green technology. Western also purchases most of its energy from alternate sources and even has a solar collector to help run some of its facilities. With a college that has specifically been devoted to the study and betterment of the environment since the 1970s, we think it is an oversight to not include Western in your list.
Drucynda McMahon
Maple Valley, Washington


I am a Tufts University senior, and first and foremost I'd like to thank you guys for acknowledging the efforts of my university (as well as the many other great things the Sierra Club does).

I'm writing, however, to make a suggestion. Rather than make a list of criteria a school should have in order to be sustainable, it would be much wiser, and a much more accurate classification of a schools greenness, to understand the overall mind-set of the student body, administration, staff, etc. Not to mention to conduct better research.

I am in no way writing in an effort to say that Tufts should have had a higher ranking (even though I think it's true, but beggars can't be choosers, after all), but I do think that if other universities across the country are going to look at this list and give it the kind of weight they give to something like the U.S. News & World Report college rankings (which are also not perfect), then the list you guys make needs to be way more effective and much more accurately and professionally done and researched. Especially considering that an organization with your kind of credibility could create a list that really does influence people's college choices.

So, as an example of what you could have done better, here's my analysis of Tufts: First of all, let's forget about the Ivy League wannabe thing. A comment like that is funny for about a second to some people, but overall it detracts from whatever type of praise you are trying to give. Also, we hate that name (I'm a senior, but all the other classes started going here after Tufts was named a "New Ivy," whatever that means, so essentially we've shaken that name anyway).

But on to the important things. Tufts is the first school to develop an energy policy that has really shaped the mind-set of all people who work and go here. We are all, as individual consumers, way more conscious about the environment because of it. Tufts just replaced a ton of lights on campus with LEDs. Two years ago Tufts completed two of its newest buildings, the Granoff Music Center and Sophia Gordon Hall, the latter of which is a new dormitory that I believe achieved silver LEED marks. Tufts students can buy renewable energy credits, although all three Tufts campuses (Boston, Medford, and Grafton) run 100 percent on hydroelectricity and natural gas. One hundred percent. No coal.

We also have high-efficiency boilers. About 44 percent of Tufts's waste is either recycled or composted (in fact, at this year's freshman matriculation ceremony and luncheon, which thousands of people attended, only five bags of actual trash remained, making it an essentially zero-waste event).

You claimed in your article that we do very little to get students to commute green, although that's not true. Not only can any Tufts student (or area resident) trade in their low-efficiency lightbulbs for free high-efficiency bulbs, but transportation-wise Tufts has an 11 percent discount for CharlieCards (local transit passes), a 50 percent discount on registration fees for Zipcars (not to mention the five Priuses right on campus), a free shuttle bus to Davis Square, many on-campus MBTA bus stops, and a multitude of well-lit and secure places to lock up bikes. Most Tufts vehicles (not police or facilities' work vans, though) are electric or the like. A large portion of our food in the dining halls is grown and purchased locally.

Honestly, I could go on and on about what Tufts has done for the environment (the theme of the school is "active citizenship," after all), not to mention the institutes it has established (Tufts Institute of the Environment). More important, though, I can say that Tufts is pumping out several thousand of the most environmentally conscious people each year. Also, in the same way that a heroin addict will stop at nothing to get their next fix, Tufts is absolutely addicted to greening the campus and building as good a world community as possible, and you better believe it will stop at nothing to keep improving, whether it's making every new policy, initiative, or building green, or putting a wind turbine smack in the middle of campus to harness all the wind we get on the hill. It's as if I can't recycle fast enough! There's this overwhelming feeling around campus of making real change happen, quickly but not shoddily.

So I just wanted to say these things because I think it really, really is important to recognize institutions that are doing these things. Colleges have always been the gardens of change. But, as I said earlier, I urge your efforts to live up to their potential and be more meaningful, impacting, thorough, and useful to other institutions looking to do their part.
Dan Hurwit (submitted by e-mail)


While I appreciate that you have Oberlin College on the list, I think that it should be much higher. Let me start by saying that Oberlin is not a client of mine, but I am a 1984 Oberlin graduate (1984).

The "lowlight" you state is that there is no public transportation, but on a campus where it takes less than 20 minutes to walk from end to end, there is little need for public transportation. What is encouraged is walking and bicycling.

Though it has been many years since I graduated from Oberlin, I know that very few students drive anywhere that isn't out of town, which would require automobile transportation anyway.

In addition, Oberlin, even back in the 1980s, was ahead of the game, with a heating system that returned much of the "lost" heat back into buildings. The school was on the very early end of having student co-ops, which utilized many local products and sustainable eating and food-growing habits. This doesn't even begin to touch on the design of the buildings, which are not only green but also educating the scientists and social activists who will make sustainable living a greater possibility in the future. Please see the article from the New York Times that highlights one of the environmental co-ops at Oberlin. You will see that Oberlin should be much higher on your list.

It is, in large part, because of what I learned at Oberlin that I focus my business on environmentally sound companies and live as sustainable a life as I can, for myself, my family, my community, and my planet.
Michele Samuels
Mill Valley, California


I enjoyed the article about the green colleges but was disappointed not to find rankings for more schools, perhaps on your Web site. I was hoping to take the info for the college I work for to our newly formed sustainability committee. Please expand your list!
Lorrie Benson (submitted by e-mail)


I thoroughly enjoyed reading your annual green guide to colleges again. But there seems to be a glaring omission. Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, is not only a great school for the arts and sciences but also is a leader in green innovation. Bard has a master's program in environmental policy, which is also partnered with Pace Law School and the Peace Corps.

Bard has an Environmental Resources Department, BERD, devoted to monitoring its environmental impact on the college. The college also has a world-class performing arts center, the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, and a new state-of-the art science center, which both use geothermal installations, among 20 other sites on campus. The college was also one of the early signatories to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and hosted a very successful Focus the Nation conference last year. I could go on. Maybe next issue?
James Mongan
Woodstock, New York


Thanks again for your annual review of "cool" universities and "Hot Jobs to Chill the Planet." I think this is really great information to shape the next generation's choices and learning.

In your next annual review, I encourage you to include Naropa University. We have 100 percent wind power, we have signed and are working strongly on the Presidents Climate Commitment, we have eco-bus passes for all staff and students, we have loaner bikes and a stellar recycling system, we compost our food waste and all paper towels, and so much more! On our Web site, naropa.edu, we have a sustainability section that you can track us on (click on "About," then click on "Environmental Sustainability").

Feel free to call and contact us!
Anne Z. Parker (submitted by e-mail)
Chair, Environmental Studies Department, Naropa University


Your September/October 2008 issue listed Colorado State University at Boulder, Colorado, as a green college. You overlooked Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. They are a very green university with many "firsts" in programs that go beyond those of CU. Please include them next time you write this article.
Alexis Hmielak (submitted by e-mail)


It seems that, for the second year in a row, Dickinson College, in beautiful Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has not made the "Ten That Get It" list. With the Treehouse residence building (a.k.a. the Center for Sustainable Living) around since 1990, students have been reducing energy consumption by limiting their use of gasoline, electricity, water, and paper; they promote recycling and support local, organic food production. Not only do they provide an example of sustainable living habits for their fellow scholars, but they also promote their care for the environment to the greater Dickinson community.
Jillian Rolen
Schnecksville, Pennsylvania


You said you wanted to hear from readers about schools that were overlooked in your search for the greenest colleges. Well, I'm writing to point out the efforts of my alma mater, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York State.

What's being done to make RIT greener? Here are a few examples:

  • Diesel fuel or electric vehicles have replaced gasoline-powered vehicles where possible. In addition, RIT Facilities Management Services (FMS), in conjunction with the Golisano Institute, is testing biodiesel-powered vehicles.
  • Sophisticated controls regulate heating and ventilation of buildings.
  • Green cleaning products are used campus-wide.
  • Solar cells power all crosswalk warning lights.
  • An experimental wind-powered light, designed and built by engineering students through an FMS-sponsored project, illuminates a section of a campus walkway.
  • Increased insulation has been installed on all building roofs (as part of the re-roofing process) to the R-20 level.
  • Single-pane windows in older buildings have been replaced with energy-efficient windows.
  • Air-lock entry vestibules have been installed in almost all buildings.
  • Lighting fixtures are continuously replaced with more-efficient models as the technology evolves.
  • Water-saving plumbing fixtures have been installed.
  • Energy Star equipment is the standard for RIT purchases.

Many of these practices date to the 1970s; energy consumption has long been an important financial consideration. More recently, increased concern about global warming and other environmental issues have made such efforts ever more compelling.

In 2006, James Watters, senior vice president of finance and administration, established an advisory committee to review institutional practices for sustainability in construction of facilities, alternative energy technologies, green technologies, and strategic policies for consideration by the university. Members of the Committee for Sustainable Practices include administrators, faculty, and students.

The new College of Applied Science and Technology Building, which opened last April, was designed to meet the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council.

RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering has launched master's degree programs in sustainable engineering that enhance the incorporation of sustainable approaches in traditional engineering education and advance development of sustainability research. The programs include multidisciplinary coursework in life-cycle engineering, design for the environment, alternative energy, and public policy.

RIT offers other degree programs focused on environmental studies, including:

  • Environmental Science (B.S. and M.S.), College of Science
  • Environmental, Health and Safety Management, (M.S.), College of Applied Science and Technology
  • MBA concentration in environmentally sustainable management, Saunders College of Business
  • Environmental Management and Technology, B.S., College of Applied Science and Technology

The college [of Engineering] houses a student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, an international organization designed to enhance the incorporation of numerous facets of sustainability in engineering, science, and society.

RIT also has a Student Environmental Action League, which last March hosted "Project Runway," an event in which teams compete to create garments out of used materials. It also coordinates an annual Electronic Waste Recycling Day on campus, where unwanted electronic equipment is collected and either refurbished or recycled.

The Laboratory for Environmental Computing and Decision Making at RIT has announced a new program aimed at exploring the environmental, economic, and energy impacts of global and domestic freight transportation. The Sustainable Freight Transportation Research Initiative will help build tools and conduct research necessary for improving the environmental footprint of moving goods around the globe.

All of this information can be found on RIT's Web site. Pretty impressive, huh?
Nicole Timmons
Falls Church, Virginia


I must object to how Sierra continues to overlook community colleges in your annual "Cool Schools" feature. While the survey purportedly contains "a diverse mix of institutions" of higher learning that have developed, adopted and executed sustainable programs this year, your omission of community colleges both misses some of the best stories in higher education and betrays a sense of (shall I say it) elitism.

In particular, the story of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), which is currently spearheading one of the largest public-sector sustainable building efforts in the United States, should not be ignored or dismissed. With the absence of LACCD, and other districts for that matter, Sierra is missing the valuable contribution LACCD, in particular, is making toward saving our planet.

The article mentioned several "shining stars" in higher education that are currently adopting green building standards, expanding environmental studies programs and efforts to move to renewable energy sources. However, this is not new information. LACCD's Board of Trustees adopted the district's innovative green building standards more than five years ago, which has resulted in the planning and construction of 44 new LEED buildings throughout the district. It has also led to the development of a cadre of LEED-trained architects, construction managers and contractors, bringing the cost of sustainable buildings down and bringing it closer to being the standard.

In fact, LACCD's sustainability program is one of the most decorated programs of its kind in the nation. It has been recognized by various leading organizations including the Global Green USA, the state of California/Flex Your Power, Governor Schwarzenegger, USGBC-Los Angeles Chapter and the California Registry. The district is also one of 400 colleges and universities, which, through the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), signed a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative to dramatically accelerate and support efforts to reach climate neutrality. I sincerely doubt that all (or even most) of your "Cool Schools" can equal this claim.

Just as important, LACCD has been instrumental in training the "green-collar" workforce of tomorrow by fostering "green" job creation and certification in partnership with other institutions of higher education, unions, businesses and public schools. Coupled with its dedication to education and commitment to sustainability, the district lends its support and resources to the green cause by frequently presenting and hosting local, state, national and international conferences on sustainability in an effort to share its experiences and knowledge with others. In addition to the commitment by and leadership of its board of trustees, the program's director, Larry Eisenberg, has traveled tirelessly to spread the gospel of green, both to save the planet and save money.

By not including LACCD and other community college districts, you are only telling a partial story of the national greening efforts of our educational institutions, as well as disregarding the contributions of two-year colleges to the health and well-being of our environment.
Coby King (submitted by e-mail)
Senior vice president and general manager, LACCD


Next year when you report on green campuses, please spend some time checking how the schools handle potential recyclables after football and other games. One of your picks in recent years does nothing to promote or even facilitate recycling after games, because it is just too much trouble. If this is true for other schools, the amount of unnecessary waste that results from this laissez faire policy--especially for the schools with stadiums that seat 100,000--could dwarf any positive green initiatives.
Ellen Dannin
State College, Pennsylvania


I attend Valdosta State University and am an active member of Students Against Violating the Environment. I read "Five That Fail" and was disappointed to see that there was not a list of what we failed at. I agree that VSU is not as green as it should be, but I want to know exactly why we are one of the five that failed.

I wanted to use the magazine as a segueway to start getting students active and to talk to the administration, but there is nothing there for me to show them. Every other school that failed has a description of what was not green about it. For VSU, however, you only say that students have to contact the administration to use the free-speech space. Please give me the reasons we failed, so my objective to get VSU to be a cleaner, greener campus does not fail.
Natalie Quinn
Valdosta, Georgia


I'm a former student of Valdosta State University who worked for two-plus years to pass a solid energy policy that included efficiency and renewables, tried for a year to bring biodiesel from waste veggie oil to the campus buses, and helped organize a group that has been (for three years now) working to pass a student sustainability fee to get renewable and efficiency projects funded.

Despite all the support a few years ago-thousands of students raised concerns and demanded action-the school never listened and has done much to slow or halt the process by shutting down voting mechanisms, kicking people out of school, making student-administration communication near impossible (even if you do try to set up a meeting), and flexing its political muscle to cloud or halt statewide efforts that originated on its campus.

I've feared for some time that VSU's administration and operations were the norm for most universities, and partially because of that sentiment, I've decided to leave higher education.

Many environmental projects and campaigns are, for the most part, at square one because of the administration's lack of accountability to students and faculty, and y'alls little snippet about VSU's failing record will provide much needed ammo and motivation for the students who are still organizing there. A much-needed boost to their efforts to alter some power dynamics and get what they've been working so diligently at obtaining.

Just wanted to say thank you for the article.
Seth R. Gunning
Atlanta, Georgia


Are you or have you ever been a despoiler of nature? This is a question that is most easily addressed by a loyalty oath--a president's climate commitment perhaps. Yet it seems to us that by selectively and arbitrarily branding five colleges and universities as "failures" based on their having declined to simply follow rather than seek to lead, you do a disservice to all, and especially to the standards of critical thought that higher education engages in. You debase the capacities of the faculty, staff, and student body and ignore the marriage of passion and reason that will be necessary to achieve the goals of a sustainable campus in the future.

Many have signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, and many have not. There is no "one size fits all," and pledges made without planning and thoughtful execution do not serve any institution well. The modern university is a complex natural system that varies with geography, ecology, resources, and populations. At the College of William & Mary, we recognize that complexity and the uniqueness to our situation.

The college has made strong progress over the past several years, improving efficiency and sustainability in areas as diverse as transportation, landscape, energy use, food services, new construction, and retrofits. In April 2008, our president signed a comprehensive, forward-looking policy on sustainability. More important, we have (over the past year) moved to develop, and now implement, a transformative approach that we hope will serve not only to achieve the longer-range goals of sustainability for our community, but also to advance the scholarship of our faculty and enrich the educational experience of our graduates.

The modern university is a community within the larger community of the world. Sustainability is a community value and a responsibility that can and should be taught and learned. At William & Mary we are committed to that, not to a simple pledge or rote operational change that does not serve to educate or expand our understanding.
Dennis Taylor, professor of marine science, and Lynda Butler, interim dean and chancellor professor of law (submitted by e-mail)
College of William & Mary


I was somewhat disappointed in "Hot Jobs to Chill the Planet". Not that there is anything really wrong with the jobs listed, but they are skewed away from the real heavy lifting the world faces in the coming years. Environmental education and journalism jobs are not terribly well paying or common (many newspapers, for instance, have cut specialized reporting positions), yet environmental studies programs around the country have been churning out graduates suited for these positions for some time. It would be nice if Sierra were more proactive in encouraging students to consider careers that can make the world greener but are not so obviously "green."

The challenges we face include the ability to use less energy and material, to recycle more stuff, to make energy in environmentally benign ways, and to anticipate how any major changes we make as a society will impact the environment (in the broadest possible sense). Jobs that address these issues are in the sciences and engineering. These fields offer high-paying jobs, and they are the places where these immense challenges will be met and solved. They are also fields that American citizens are avoiding in school.

Given the strong scientific background of the founders of the Sierra Club, it is sad not to see the Club do more to help reverse the continuing drift of American students from mathematics and science. John Muir was effective not only because he was a gifted writer but also because he was a gifted observer and could place his observations in a scientific framework when desired. Joseph LeConte, whose memorial structure was built by the Club and still remains in Yosemite Valley, was a pioneering California geologist. There is a need for people with outlooks parallel to those of the Club's founders to fill the ranks of science and engineering, and I encourage the Club to find ways to fill that need.
Craig H. Jones
Boulder, Colorado


I enjoyed the September/October 2008 issue but was surprised that the Student Conservation Association was not mentioned in "Volunteer Opportunities" in "Hot Jobs to Chill the Planet." The SCA is an excellent organization that partners with various conservation agencies to provide a variety of field internships across the country.
Sally Freeman (submitted by e-mail)


I enjoy reading Sierra. I appreciate that the magazine is but one benefit of membership.

I am curious, though: How is it that Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia, "serving only local, seasonal cuisine," offers dishes like tuna tartare ("Good Grub")? Where exactly around Athens is the local tuna caught? When exactly is tuna-catching season in Athens?
Zara Brenner
Pittsford, New York


I'm glad to see Sierra is making its green college issue an annual guide. Families wanting to learn more extensively about green colleges can do so in Making a Difference Colleges (tenth edition), published by SageWorks Press. This practical career-oriented guide is endorsed by Julia Butterfly Hill, Green Teacher magazine, and the late David Brower, among others. Incidentally, two of my children went to your number four college--Warren Wilson in North Carolina.
Miriam Weinstein
Fairfax, California


What a lapse in judgment the September/October issue cover and associated article is: low journalistic quality, so PC it reeks, few facts, no balance, no pretense of quality or thoroughness. Whatever you may think of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, this article was destructive to the Sierra Club's stature.

Why hurt the Club with such nonsense so obviously far from any expertise the Club even pretends to have? What were you thinking?
Jeff Bodington
San Francisco, California


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