Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental group. This is the magazine's seventh annual ranking of the most eco-enlightened schools in America. Universities were audited and scored for their commitment to environmentalism using a survey called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector – the result of the collaborative efforts of four organizations: the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Endowments Institute, and the Princeton Review. Questions centered on measurable environmental achievements and goals. Criteria evaluated included curriculum, events, outreach, research, energy management, green facilities and housing, alternative transportation options, water metering, investments, and climate action plan.
UCLA received high marks for innovation, planning, and waste management. The University's waste management efforts include implementing a campuswide recycling program, introducing biodegradable utensils in campus food courts, recycling materials from construction projects, recovering water from labs and air-conditioning systems, and composting food waste in the dining halls. The magazine's aim with the ranking is to help prospective students who seek a way to compare colleges based on their commitment to environmentalism. Cool Schools also serves to spur competition, create aspirational standards, and publicly reward the institutions that work hard to protect the planet.