Workers install solar panels atop the campus’s Student Center Parking Structure
Workers install solar panels atop the campus’s Student Center Parking Structure, one of many sustainability-related projects making UCI the nation’s top “Cool School” – again. Chris Nugent / UCI

If it’s cool you want, look no further than the University of California, Irvine. For the second year in a row, the campus is No. 1 in Sierra magazine’s annual “Cool Schools” ranking of the nation’s greenest colleges. It’s the first time any university has repeated a No. 1 appearance and the sixth year UCI has placed among the top 10.

“We’re thrilled that our successes in energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction – both in campus infrastructure and research – have garnered this recognition,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “We have people dedicated to zero-waste and water preservation projects, alternative energy research and more. ¬It’s a testament to a campuswide commitment from students, faculty and staff to preserve our planet and help create a greener and healthier Earth.”

Factors that boosted UCI to No. 1 include three on-campus solar projects, a 19-megawatt turbine cogeneration power plant, and energy efficiency goals that are consistently exceeded, according to the official magazine of the Sierra Club. The university’s award-winning energy management program, which helps reduce its carbon footprint, has been in place for 26 years.

“The sustainability ethic permeates what we do in facilities and infrastructure,” said Wendell Brase, vice chancellor for administrative & business services. “And it goes beyond that. We pride ourselves on the many collaborations we have with researchers; the campus is a living laboratory.”

More than 200 faculty members conduct research and provide instruction on such topics as collapsing glaciers and sea level rise in Greenland and Antarctica, conservation biology across California, ocean health and water resources administration; atmospheric chemistry and global systems modeling; energy conservation, power generation and transportation; climate change-related drought, famine, flooding, disease and poverty; and land-use planning, environmental law, public health and social justice.

The provost’s office at UCI is home to the Sustainability Initiative, which harnesses the university’s scholarship and resources to develop new systems and cultures that no longer harm the planet – or people. In addition the office helps support the Global Sustainability Resource Center, a hub for student leadership and education. There are 22 campus clubs and programs with green themes.

“I’m so proud to see how UCI is leading the way in research, outreach and education addressing the causes of climate change and its possible solutions,” said Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost & executive vice chancellor. “We have some of the best minds in the world working on these critical issues.”

More than 150 schools responded to Sierra’s extensive survey about sustainability practices on campus. Using a customized system, the magazine’s researchers then scored the universities on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

The full ranking, including each college’s completed questionnaire, is online at


About Sierra magazine: Sierra is the official publication of the Sierra Club, America’s largest and most influential grass-roots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife and preserve our remaining wild places through grass-roots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. For more information, go to

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UC Irvine news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at