Thompson Rivers University has been named the top college or university in North America for sustainability by the Sierra Club — the first Canadian university to be ranked No. 1 in the annual survey.
For 13 years, the Sierra Club has been ranking colleges and universities according to which ones offer the best sustainability-focused courses, eco-friendly cafeteria provisions and carbon-neutral land and energy policies, as well as the most opportunities to engage with the environmental movement. This year, a record 282 schools vied to become the eco-savviest in all of academia, with TRU finishing atop the pack.
Here is what the Sierra Club had to say about TRU and its commitment to sustainability:
“The first Canadian school to top our ranking deserves kudos for diverting more than 70 per cent of its waste stream away from landfills and avoiding fossil fuels for heating — no easy feat in chilly British Columbia. Thompson Rivers heats some buildings using a biomass system that burns waste wood and others with electricity produced from hydropower, wind, and solar. The university is also in the process of transitioning its entire vehicle fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles. At convocation, students with a leadership in environmental sustainability certificate — earned through environmental engagement in and out of class, in tandem with any undergraduate or graduate program — receive special recognition. TRU rewards sustainability ambassadors, students who spearhead zero-waste initiatives and educate their peers on smarter consumption, with partial-tuition vouchers.”
In recognizing TRU, the Sierra Club includes the STARS scores from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), then ranks schools according to the club’s own weighting criteria, based on its own priorities. The Sierra Club also includes a supplemental question about fossil fuel investments.
The Cool School status comes just a few days after AASHE listed TRU as the top master’s institution in its 2019 Sustainable Campus Index. TRU was No. 1 in the energy category and tied with the University of Alberta for co-ordination and planning.
AASHE oversees a program that provides participating colleges and universities with a framework for measuring their sustainability performance. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a global sustainability standard created by and for higher education institutions.
In fall of 2019, TRU achieved a platinum rating in STARS, making it the first university in Canada to achieve that status and one of only six in the world to reach that level.