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September 2021

Santa Clara University Among Top Sierra Magazine “Cool Schools” for Sustainability

For the fourth consecutive year, the University has earned a top spot in Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” list for 2021. This list celebrates colleges and universities that prioritize sustainability and lead efforts to protect and preserve the environment.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sept. 27, 2021 – For the fourth consecutive year, Santa Clara University has earned a top spot in Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” list for 2021. The list celebrates colleges and universities that prioritize sustainability and lead efforts to protect and preserve the environment.

This year, a record 328 qualified institutions took part in the review process. Santa Clara University finished at number 22 with a score of 79.45. Participating schools were assessed across 18 categories ranging from curriculum and research to public engagement and water. The schools were applauded for elevating their sustainability goals despite the looming uncertainty of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Amidst the shifting tides of a global pandemic, SCU found fresh and innovative ways to engage its community through initiatives such as:

  • Resiliency Bags—A newly minted program to help reduce food insecurity among the most vulnerable in the Santa Clara community.
  • Garden Play Project—A digital approach to building meaningful connections and cultivating relationships while the place-based Bronco Urban Garden was inaccessible.

These initiatives complement Santa Clara’s ongoing efforts to decrease the University’s environmental footprint and model for students how an organization can operate more sustainably. SCU reached net zero greenhouse gas emissions for campus energy use in 2020. SCU’s ambitious Energy Master Plan guides further reductions of fossil fuel consumption through a combination of efficiency upgrades, metering, and onsite photovoltaic systems. The Sustainability Data Hub tracks SCU’s progress on its Sustainability Strategic Plan maximizing transparency and energizing the Bronco community as it works toward these important goals.

Efforts to increase campus awareness and action are underway as SCU’s Center for Sustainability prepares for Global Climate Action Week October 11-15. This multi-day experience of live streaming, on-demand sessions, and in-person events is designed to inspire, motivate, educate, and energize the community around the climate crisis and its related issues. All Broncos with an email address can register for the Global Higher Education Sustainability Conference and the public is invited to join us at tUrn events— SCU’s university-wide climate crisis awareness and action week. 

“We worked extremely hard to pivot during the pandemic and keep Santa Clara’s efforts toward mitigating climate change top of mind for the university community,” said Lindsey Kalkbrenner, director of the Center for Sustainability at SCU. “With our return to campus, we have a renewed opportunity to engage with our students, faculty, and staff in person and to empower them as agents of change. The Cool Schools ranking is both a celebration and a catalyst for the work we are doing—a reminder of how vital our efforts are to turn our global climate trajectory around.”

Santa Clara’s unique approach to sustainability is rooted in its mission as a Jesuit university. The University places a priority on integrating social justice and sustainability to illustrate the connections among a healthy environment, just societies, and a vibrant economy that meet all people's fundamental needs, especially those of the global poor. More than 1,300 classes incorporate sustainability, and nearly 20% of faculty conduct sustainability-related research.

The Sierra magazine Cool Schools list is the result of a self-reported survey that is open to all four-year, degree-granting undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, along with two-year community colleges. To be considered, each school must complete an extensive questionnaire through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment Rating System (STARS) of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). SCU has earned STARS Gold.

About Santa Clara University

Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see

Media Contacts

Deepa Arora | SCU Communications |

Elliot Zanger | SCU Communications |

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