Cool Schools 2021 FAQ

September 3, 2019

The Top 20 | All 328 Schools Ranked | Methodology | FAQ | More Cool Schools


Q: How did you decide which schools were included?

A: Participation in Sierra magazine's 15th annual Cool Schools ranking was open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, along with two-year community colleges. This is the fourth year that we opened the rankings to two-year schools.

This year’s scores were based on the “STARS reports” created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Any valid STARS report from the past three years was eligible for Sierra magazine’s rankings. Schools that submitted data through the AASHE STARS system by our March 2021 deadline are represented in the 2021 rankings. 

Q: How many schools participated?

A: Sierra received 328 complete responses from qualified colleges—a record response rate.

Q: Did schools have to pay to participate?

A: There is no cost for participation.

Q: My school isn't listed. How can I encourage it to participate next year?

A: Contact your school's sustainability coordinator or public relations office and ask them to participate.

Q: How were schools scored? Can you describe your methodology?

A: Our scoring system reflects the broader priorities of the Sierra Club. For example, we award a significant percentage of points in the areas of campus energy use, transportation, and fossil fuel divestment because the Sierra Club believes that progress in these sectors is essential for addressing the climate crisis. Click here to read about our methodology and to see how our scoring logic compares with the STARS rankings compiled by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. 

Q: Why do you rank schools on sustainability?

A: We hope that our annual ranking can serve as a guide for prospective students, current students, administrators, and alumni to compare colleges’ commitments to environmentalism. It also serves to spur healthy competition among schools, raise environmental standards on campus, and publicly reward the institutions that work hard to protect the planet.