9/7/2011 - Warren Wilson College, ASU among country's greenest schools
by Karen Chávez - Asheville Citizen Times
PROUD OF OUR LOCAL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA!! From the mountains, to the REALLY big mountains, green building and environmental consciousness are best exemplified by our learning institutions. And they will only get better!
SWANNANOA -- In a friendly cross-mountain environmental rivalry, the sustainable farmlands and vegan-infused campus cafeterias of Warren Wilson College came out ahead of the widespread recycling at Appalachian State University.
The private, 900-student Warren Wilson College ranked No. 4 in the September issue of Sierra magazine's survey ranking the top 100 greenest colleges in the country. The 17,000-student ASU came in 12th. Both colleges made large leaps forward from last year's rankings.
"I'm very proud of our achievements. We're a small, privately funded college, with fewer resources than a lot of the schools on the list," said Dr. John Brock, interim director of Warren Wilson's Environmental Leadership Center, professor of chemistry and environmental science, who is also a visiting scientist with the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.
"We're excited. But it's not a competition," Brock said. "First, we are about progressive learning. Second is our environmental sustainability ethic.
"Whether we're ranked first or 10 or off the list is not important. What's important is that we do the work. I want us to be a sustainable community that is off carbon."
The small liberal arts college is well on its way to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and cutting energy consumption.
Some of the colleges's practices that stood out to Sierra magazine were its vegetarian and vegan cafeteria, the Cow Pie Cafe; the EcoDorm, the first platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified residence hall in the country; and its commitment to wind power, said Avital Binshtock, Sierra's lifestyle editor.
Warren Wilson College jumped from No. 14 last year.
4th out of 940
The rankings were based on questionnaires sent to 940 schools across the country, focusing on their green practices and initiatives, Binshtock said.
Sierra has a readership of 1.1 million.
"We asked a range of questions on environmental academics, energy efficiency, what percentage of buildings completed in the last five years are LEED certified, waste management practices, what percentage of food is grown locally, across the board sustainability," Binshtock said.
Brock credits high ranking to the environmentally-charged student body.
"The difference with Warren Wilson College is our students," Brock said. "They push us to go farther in terms of environmental sustainability. They tend to be engaged and passionate about these issues.
"A lot of colleges are instituting recycling programs and gardens, but we've had those programs since we started in the 1800s."
Ged Moody, director of ASU's sustainability office, said students also power the sustainability engine of the school in Boone.
"The students that come to Appalachian come with a sustainability edge to them," Moody said.
"They demand this type of excellence from us. They care deeply for these issues. When we do anything from a sustainability standpoint, it's with education in mind."
ASU leaped from a ranking of 91 last year to No. 12 this year.
Moody attributes that to "unearthing&rdq uo; more practices that the school was already undertaking, such as 100-percent use of green products in housekeeping, no pesticides in landscaping, recycling 40 percent of its waste stream, and reducing electricity use by 20 percent over the past four years."
Binshtock said the annual list, began in 2007, provides a tool for schools to focus on areas for improvement, provides potential students with a guide for a college's environmental consciousness, and is used to "spur a little friendly competition."
Moody said he does not see the Sierra "Coolest Schools" list as a competition with Warren Wilson but does offer the smaller school a hearty congratulations.
"We have a lot to learn from them," he said. "In the case of sustainability, there's a lot more at stake than rankings. It's our future."
The top 10
Sierra magazine's list of "America's Coolest Schools" was led by:
1. University of Washington, Seattle.
2. Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vt.
3. University of California, San Diego.
4. Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa.
5. Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
6. University of California, Irvine.
7. University of California, Santa Cruz.
8. University of California, Davis.
9. Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash.
10. Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.
For the complete list, visit www.sierramagazine.com/coolschools.