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UCI student rakes soil in a community garden on campus. Further integrating student life with educational experiences is a goal of the university's new strategic plan, as is developing a national model for how to live responsibly and well in the 21st century. Steve Zylius / UCI

UCI among Sierra magazine’s top 10 ‘Cool Schools’ for seventh consecutive year

Energy, transportation scores make campus highest-ranked comprehensive university

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 6, 2016 – With the announcement today of Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” ranking, the University of California, Irvine becomes the only campus to score in the top 10 for seven consecutive years. Finishing third this year on the strength of green energy and eco-friendly transportation programs, sustainability research, and related academic and co-curricular student activities, UCI is the highest-ranked comprehensive university and leading UC school on the list.

“This exceptional showing demonstrates UCI’s commitment to developing a national model for how to live responsibly and well in the 21st century,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Through our research, teaching, student activities and sustainable operations, we are a resource and a partner for the community.”

UCI scored well on energy-saving strategies. Through green building techniques, retrofitting older labs and onsite power generation, the campus has been able to reduce both its total energy consumption and its purchase of electricity from the grid while the school’s footprint has increased by 2 million square feet over the baseline year.

Other strengths include:

  • Academics: Between 2013 and 2016, UCI offered 110 distinct undergraduate and graduate courses with a focus on sustainability and another 139 with a sustainability component. Nearly 3,000 students graduated in 2015 having taken at least one of these classes.
  • Co-curricular activities: Through UCI’s Costa Rica Program, students are able to study sustainable organic farming, medicinal plant use, tropical ecology, reforestation, ecotourism and more. It’s just one of many such global sustainability and cultural immersion programs. In addition, UCI’s Sustainability Initiative, under the auspices of the Office of the Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor, promotes collaboration with diverse communities on and off campus in developing solutions to sustainability challenges affecting California and the world. The office also supports the Global Sustainability Resource Center, a hub for student leadership and education. There are 22 UCI clubs and programs with green themes.
  • Research: More than 200 faculty members are engaged in research relating to climate change and sustainability issues. Subjects range from forest fire prediction in the Amazon to melting glaciers and subsequent sea rise in Greenland. On the home front, researchers are helping to craft flood preparation strategies from Newport Beach to Tijuana.
  • Transportation: Half of UCI’s fleet of vehicles are powered by alternative fuels or utilize hybrid technology. This includes 29 shuttle buses operating on 20 percent biodiesel, 27 hybrid electric vehicles, 194 pure electric vehicles and carts, and eight compressed natural gas or propane vehicles.

Sierra magazine, the official publication of the Sierra Club, initiated the college sustainability rankings in 2007 because – as the biggest purchasers and employers in many communities – campuses can create demand for eco-friendly services and products and lead by example. This year is the 10th anniversary of the “Cool Schools” ranking, which assessed a record 202 participants.

“This huge response shows that colleges are taking the lead on addressing climate change,” said Jason Mark, Sierra’s editor-in-chief. “We’re seeing schools commit to renewable energy purchasing, buying electric vehicles for their campus fleets, reducing their water usage, making organic food available in their cafeterias and offering dozens of environmental studies courses. These colleges are instilling in the minds of their students the importance of adopting conservation values in their day-to-day activities.”

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, 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 $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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

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