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The Sierra Club names Lewis and Clark College coolest school in the state

by: Submitted photo Lewis & Clark College was recently named the Coolest School in Oregon by The Sierra Club in recognition of its efforts in sustainability.

COLLINS VIEW - When it comes to college rankings, there are many lists: Best academic universities. Biggest party schools. Most scenic campuses.

Lewis and Clark College, a school often recognized for its top-notch liberal arts program (ranked No. 75 by US News in 2011) and gorgeous scenery (ranked second most beautiful campus in the country by The Princeton Review in 2010), can add a new honor to its list. The Sierra Club recently deemed Lewis and Clark the Coolest School in Oregon, and the 37th Coolest School in the nation.

The Sierra Club's survey, now in its fourth year, aims to identify the greenest schools in the country, recognizing their sustainability efforts. Ten categories were scored: energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and a catchall section called 'other initiatives.'

Lewis and Clark College, a private liberal arts school with approximately 1,900 undergrads and 1,600 graduate students, rose 40 spots from last year's ranking on the same survey.

'We appreciate the No. 37 rank and the jump in achievement this year, but my sense is that we will see additional, considerable change in the upcoming years as we become more organized and integrated in how we approach and engage in sustainability on campus and off,' said Amy Dvorak, sustainability manager at Lewis and Clark. 'The Sierra Club ranking system has changed over time, and the schools who report have changed as well, so it is difficult to use this ranking as the ultimate benchmarking system.

The validation that these external entities provide is important to us, however, and we will continue to consider and value how we perform in this regard.'

One notable way sustainability was integrated on campus this past year was when faculty, staff and students came together to incorporate the language of sustainability into the accreditation process for the undergraduate school.

'This process included coordination with each of the three schools and resulted in an assurance that we will continue to pursue a high level of sustainability in academics, service and practice,' Dvorak said.

A one-year committee known as the Sustainability Task Force was created to meet jointly with stakeholders from the community and discuss ways to move forward with sustainability education, policy, practice and programming. This task force gave way to a new Sustainability Council, which will convene early this fall. The three key issues of sustainability at Lewis and Clark are equity (fairness in addressing ecological and economic needs), ecology (promoting practices mindful of life support systems) and economy (sustenance of jobs and the bottom line).

Dan Rolf, professor of law and cofounder of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center at the Law School, was named chair of the reconstituted Sustainability Council by President Barry Glassner. Members of the council will include students, staff and faculty from all three schools. On June 15, the Executive Council accepted the work of the six subcommittees of the Sustainability Task Force.

Key players in sustainability efforts on campus included faculty members Jim Proctor, Greg Smith, Dan Rolhlf and Janice Weis.

Standout sustainability students included Julia Huggins, Rachel Guthrie, Min Ju Kim, Beau Broughton, Ann Marie Rubin, Caitlin Piserchia and Ashley Mackenzie. Dvorak noted that students Micah Leinbach and Anna Dagget were particularly helpful in promoting initiatives and described these individuals as 'the lifeblood of our efforts.'

In the last few years, the carbon footprint at Lewis and Clark College has been reduced by 30 percent. Using renewable energy certificates, undergraduate students have purchased enough wind power to cover 100 percent of LC's energy use. Additionally, a new residence hall is being built with the goal of achieving LEED Gold certification. Dvorak said she hopes having another opportunity for on-campus housing will reduce the school's carbon footprint even more.

'Historically and currently, environmental and social issues have been critical areas of interest for LC students and one of our distinguishing features. As movements in these areas have evolved, they have naturally provided a platform for the broader discussion of sustainability. I think many if not most of the individuals who come to LC - whether students, faculty, or staff - hold these values on some level and appreciate what the college is trying to do,' Dvorak said.

To find out more about sustainability at Lewis and Clark College, visit www.lclark.edu/about/sustainability/.

To view the The Sierra Club's complete list of cool schools, visit www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201109/coolschool/.

Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com.