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May 10, 2017

UMass left off list of environmentally-friendly schools

Environmental School Graph
While the University of Massachusetts Amherst may pride itself on being an environmentally sustainable institution, emphasizing conservation, recycling, and local produce, one influential organization begs to differ.

The Sierra Club released its annual rankings of “Cool Schools,” in the September and October edition of Sierra Magazine, listing 135 institutions of higher learning as schools leading the way in environmental friendliness. UMass was nowhere to be found. Leading the way was the University of Colorado, with the University of Washington, Middlebury College, the University of Vermont, and College of the Atlantic rounding out the top five.

Students are more eco-conscious than ever, recent polls suggest, as one Princeton Review survey found that two thirds of students said a school’s environmental stance would be a factor in whether they would enroll.

Locally, Williams College placed 52, Amherst College 71, and Hampshire College 75.

Other New England schools on the list included Harvard at 11, University of New Hampshire at 12, Yale at 14, Bates at 16, Tufts at 22, Bowdoin at 28, Green Mountain College at 35, Brown at 64, Fairfield at 80, Marlboro at 106, Champlain at 118, and Lasell at 122.

Students at schools with high rankings had mixed feelings about the list. University of New Hampshire junior Jack Crowley said he was unsurprised UNH was ranked where it was.

“They channel the gas from the Durham landfill and use that for heat, they’re redoing a chemistry building trying to make it more eco-friendly, there’s an apartment complex going up, they’re making it very green, the asphalt they’re using is some kind of special material, even yesterday was “University Day,” a fall picnic, and they had these stations set up where there was trash, and bottles, and paper, and these big signs that say ‘drop it here,’” Crowley said, listing off the university’s environmental efforts. “It’s the green thing, there’s some really committed people, the administration is really pushing it,” he said.

Hampshire junior Tina Oza said she was surprised the small liberal arts school in South Amherst was not ranked higher.

“It’s kind of surprising, we should be higher up; it’s pretty weird how they rank those things,” she said.

UMass students involved in environmental planning were upset by being left off the list.

Junior globalization studies major Peter Merzbacher said he believes there is ample activism fermenting on campus and believes the university should be ranked.

“I think the fact that we’re not on the list is pretty messed up,” he said, “Student leaders here are trying to make the campus kind of a flagship sustainable university.”

“People view UC Berkeley or UVM as environmentally friendly campuses, but they don’t think of UMass on the same level, but there are a bunch of groups on campus trying to change that and we’re in the process of writing a sustainability master plan that will coordinate a bunch of departments around campus including physical plant and different organizations to get everyone involved,” he said.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at

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