Back in the national spotlight for successes in environmental leadership and sustainability, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have again been named to Sierra magazine’s annual list of the greenest colleges and universities, moving ahead 63 spots since first appearing on the list in 2009.
This year, HWS ranked No. 53 on Sierra’s “Cool Schools” list, earning the highest possible rating in the categories for co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives, as well as innovation in sustainability. Year over year, the Colleges advanced a total of 32 places in the Sierra rankings.
Professor of Economics Tom Drennen, who is the former chair of the environmental studies department and who serves as co-chair of the President’s Climate Task Force overseeing environmental issues on campus, believes the significant increase highlights the myriad of steps taken by the Colleges to become an environmental leader. Widespread efforts kicked off in 2007 when President Mark D. Gearan signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, making HWS a charter member of a national effort to reduce emissions of the gases responsible for global warming. In 2010, the Colleges launched the HWS Climate Action Plan, placing a 2025 deadline on campus climate neutrality and advancing immediate actions to make a tangible difference.
“We continue to make progress in our goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, thereby showing leadership in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases,” Drennen says. “We now buy 100 percent of our electricity from wind farms and are exploring major solar initiatives. And we continue making progress in our waste minimization efforts. We now compost more than two tons per week from the dining halls.”
Now in its ninth annual year, Sierra’s “Cool Schools” list ranks colleges and universities in individual categories such as academics, water conservation and waste management. Published by the Sierra Club-the country’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental group-the magazine reaches more than one million people.
Recent efforts in the Colleges longstanding commitment for sustainable practices and environmental leadership include the launch of the Sustainable Living and Learning Program in which first-year students live and take classes together in the same residence hall to help improve co-curricular opportunities, build community and better link the classroom to daily life, while emphasizing the relationship between local actions and global effects.
“Our launch of a first-year program last year-‘Sustainable Living and Learning Community’-showcases our efforts to more directly integrate sustainability into our curriculum,” Drennen says.
Among the Colleges’ campus-wide sustainability efforts are the successful implementation of the EcoRep program, the HWS “Caught Green Handed” campaign, participation for the past five years in the national recycling competition RecycleMania, as well as the Green Room Certification and Green Office Certification programs.
“Sierra’s recognition of Hobart and William Smith as one of the nation’s leading green institutions is indicative of the outstanding, collaborative work carried out by students, faculty and staff each year,” says Adam Maurer, the HWS sustainability manager. “Through the environmental leadership that’s taking place at HWS, the Colleges continue to offer opportunities for all to join in fostering an even more sustainable campus and environmentally mindful community.”
At HWS, there are a number of student organizations working toward creating more sustainable residential areas and spearheading initiatives on campus to reduce the school’s environmental impact, as well as students collaborating with the greater Geneva community on various environmental projects. From water quality to sustainable economic development, the Colleges’ Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) has been integral in coordinating and facilitating meaningful sustainability student projects that connect HWS with individuals and institutions from the Finger Lakes region.
As part of the Colleges overall efforts around sustainability innovation, FLI has worked collaboratively to launch and facilitate: the Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, the Sustainable Community Development Program, and the sustainable efforts and engagement opportunities occurring at the HWS Fribolin Farm.
“It’s gratifying to see many of the innovative sustainability programs at HWS being recognized through national rankings such as Sierra Cool Schools,” says Lisa Cleckner, director of the FLI. “Similar to the establishment of the FLI, these projects require support from many offices across campus including the President’s Office and the offices of the Provost, Finance, Student Affairs, and Buildings and Grounds. We are most grateful for their continued backing.”
Continuing to put HWS in the national spotlight, this year’s Sierra “Cool Schools” recognition follows a number of other recent accolades that praise the Colleges for leadership in sustainable and environmentally sound practices, including as one of North America’s most environmentally responsible schools featured in the 2015 edition of The Princeton Review‘s “Guide to 353 Green Colleges.” The annual guide lauds colleges and universities with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability based on academic offerings and career preparation, campus policies, initiatives and activities. This is the fourth consecutive year the Colleges have been honored.
Earlier this year, the Colleges were named a 2014 Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota. It was the third consecutive year that the Colleges have obtained the recognition. Tree Campus USA is a national program that was launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota to honor colleges and universities for their leadership promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. The Colleges were also named a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club, an elite group of institutions that are demonstrating exemplary environmental leadership.
HWS was recently ranked #16 in Money magazine’s list of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. The list, which highlights the 50 “leading schools for a traditional undergraduate education,” also named HWS one of only three institutions to earn a “Value-Added Grade” in the A’s.
This summer, the Colleges again were named among the nation’s top colleges with outstanding academic programs in The Princeton Review’s 2016 edition of “The Best 380 Colleges.” The annual guide features profiles on each of the top-rated colleges and universities, scoring the schools across several different categories. Citing student feedback, the HWS profile also praises the Colleges for strength in key areas such as quality of education, personal attention from faculty, preparing students for life after graduation and a sense of community. Earlier this year, the Princeton Review named HWS as one of only 200 institutions in the nation profiled in the new book, “Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get in – 2015 Edition.”
During the 2014-2015 academic year, HWS was also recognized nationally as one of only four institutions named as finalists for the President’s Award for Education Community Service in a recent Honor Roll of nearly 800 colleges and universities considered for the prestigious recognition. Over the past 13 years, the Colleges also have advanced 15 spots in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best “National Liberal Arts Colleges.”