Bulletin News

Cortland again among Sierra’s top “Cool Schools”


For the sixth consecutive year, Sierra magazine has ranked SUNY Cortland among the top 100 colleges and universities in the nation for its commitment to sustainability.

Cortland was ranked No. 82 on Sierra’s annual “Cool Schools” list, which recognizes the best two- and four-year degree-granting undergraduate institutions in the U.S. and Canada for their efforts in combatting climate change and public engagement and education on environmental issues.

No SUNY comprehensive college ranked higher. The only SUNY institutions to do better than Cortland were SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (No. 5) and the University at Buffalo (No. 72).

“As an institution, we are committed to providing an educational experience that is sustainable in every way,” President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “It is critically important that we not only educate the nation’s next generation of leaders and educators but inform and empower them to make decisions that improve humanity’s often devastating impact on our planet.”

Sierra includes institutions that have a valid bronze, silver, gold or platinum Sustainability, Tracking and Assessment Rating System (STARS) ranking from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). SUNY Cortland’s gold rating was recertified in 2019, placing it among the top 3% of all higher education institutions in the nation.

The magazine uses a weighted adjustment of a university’s STARS rating to compile the “Cool Schools” list. It adds more weight to initiatives that address three key questions:

  • Does the university address energy, air, climate and transportation on its campus as ways to combat the climate crisis?
  • Does the university engage its students and the public on issues related to sustainability?
  • Does the university offer courses and majors on environmental subjects? Sierra gives more weight to curricula than research.

SUNY Cortland was the first institution in the 64-campus SUNY system to meet all of its electricity needs with renewable sources.  Many buildings on campus have been recently updated to include more energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems and all major construction projects are designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Dragon Hall’s platinum LEED rating made it the first such building in the SUNY system when the residential building opened in 2014.

Several groups at SUNY Cortland promote sustainability through regular meetings, events and campus-wide communications. Those groups include student clubs such as Biology Club, Chemistry Club, Geology Club and the Physics and Engineering Club, as well as the Green Representative Program and the Institute for Civic Engagement.

SUNY Cortland offers two majors, conservation biology and outdoor recreation, and one minor, environmental and outdoor education, that focus on sustainability issues. The university also has a master’s degree program in environmental and outdoor education that prepares students for green careers.

Visit the Sustainability Office online for more information on SUNY Cortland’s efforts.

The Princeton Review has noted the university’s commitment to sustainability, scoring SUNY Cortland a 96 out of 99 on its “Guide to Green Colleges” in 2021.