ASU named a Cool School by Sierra Club for campus sustainability.
September 6, 2016

Sierra Club honors ASU for campus sustainability with No. 6 spot in its 2016 report, up from No. 11 in 2015

It's easy to be green — if you're a Sun Devil.

Arizona State University’s sustainability efforts have earned it a top 10 ranking in Sierra magazine’s 10th annual “Cool Schools” ranking of America’s greenest colleges and universities, released today.

ASU came in at No. 6, moving up five spots from its 2015 ranking.

More than 200 schools participated in Sierra’s extensive survey about sustainability practices on their campus. Using an updated, customized scoring system, Sierra’s researchers ranked each university based on its demonstrated commitment to upholding high environmental standards. 

Sustainability efforts aren’t just about the university’s operations, said Mick Dalrymple, director of ASU’s University Sustainability Practices — it’s about changing habits and mind-sets.

“Universities are about opening people’s minds,” Dalrymple said. “If we can get students, staff and faculty to see new opportunities for improving how we treat the environment and each other on campus, we can help them take those innovations out into the world to improve their lives, careers, neighborhoods and society.”

ASU scored high in several categories, including bike facilities, organic gardens, undergraduate programs, student outreach and move-in/out waste reduction. 

Other Arizona universities also made the list: Northern Arizona University was ranked 52nd, and the University of Arizona came in at No. 162. The full rankings can be found at

Read on to learn more about what ASU is doing to help the environment.

Solar panels

ASU has 88 solar energy installations across four campuses and the ASU Research Park, creating more than 24 megawatts of power. In addition to providing power for the university, the solar panels also provide shaded parking, extend the life of roofs that have shade, and act as a living lab for academics and research and sustainability initiatives.

Bike valets

ASU provides free, secure and convenient bike valet services in three locations around the Tempe campus. The stations accommodate up to 200 bicycles and provide supervised bicycle parking on a first-come, first-served basis.


As part of its Zero Waste initiative, ASU supports Blue Bin commingled recycling on all campuses and has services to recycle specialty items. In 2015 the university launched the Blue Bag recycling program to capture traditionally hard-to-recycle items such as batteries and wrappers. More than 500 Blue Bags have been placed around Tempe campus.

Campus harvest

The Tempe campus landscape is a diverse collection of plants from around the world including citrus, olive, pecan, peach and many other harvestable trees and shrubs. Last year, more than 400 volunteers harvested 3,600 pounds of dates on campus for sale, and 5 tons of ASU’s Seville oranges were also harvested for juice at campus dining locations.

Sustainable dining

Sun Devil Dining strives to make the path from field to fork as sustainable as possible through programs such as Engrained Cafe. This restaurant on the Tempe campus is committed to environmentally friendly practices such as using locally grown food, energy-efficient equipment and sustainable building materials.

LEED buildings

Since July 2006, ASU has completed 27 certified LEED projects, comprising 46 buildings including the second floor of the Memorial Union. In the past year, the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the Tempe campus and College Avenue Commons were the latest to receive certification: platinum and gold, respectively.

Campus shuttles

Last spring, this free intercampus service received a makeover that included a new shuttle fleet of double-decker buses, enhanced Wi-Fi, and charging ports and electrical outlets at every seat. The shuttles help support ASU’s commitment to sustainable transportation, which also includes biking, public transit and carpooling.


This year, ASU launched the first compost station for the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. Students, faculty and staff may place food scraps and paper food-service items in a green compost bin.

Polytechnic Community Garden

The Community Garden at the Polytechnic campus provides space and programming for students, faculty, staff and K-12 students to grow and enjoy fresh products.

“We are delighted that our actions align with the Sierra Club’s sustainability priorities,” said Nichol Luoma, ASU sustainability operations officer and associate vice president, University Business Services. “As a New American University, ASU is committed to leading by example and continuously innovates to achieve our sustainability goals.”

More Earth-friendly facts about ASU’s sustainability efforts:

  • Renewable-energy use at ASU during fiscal year 2016 avoided approximately 21,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, roughly equal to the annual emissions of 4,500 passenger vehicles.
  • ASU’s Campus Metabolism is an interactive web tool that displays real-time energy use on four campuses and ASU Research Park.
  • During Ditch the Dumpster — when residence hall residents are encouraged to donate or recycle unwanted items instead of throwing them away during move-out — ASU students diverted more than 105,000 pounds of food, clothing, furniture and other reusable items.
  • Zero Waste efforts resulted in a FY 2016 diversion rate of 35.6 percent. Total food waste diverted from landfill: 414.14 tons.
  • ASU placed first in the Pac-12 for diversion rate in the RecycleMania Game Day Basketball Challenge with a diversion rate of 92.4 percent.
  • ASU partners with the non-profit Borderlands to make rescued fresh produce available at low cost to ASU students, faculty and staff and the broader community.
  • A Rescued Food Feast event diverted nearly 600 pounds of food from the landfill.
  • The university offers a range of sustainability-related degrees and is home to the nation’s first School of Sustainability, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. In addition, the School of Sustainability Residential Community provides a living and learning opportunity for students to “walk the talk.”

“For more than 10 years, ASU has demonstrated its fundamental commitment to sustainability,” said Christopher Boone, dean and professor of the School of Sustainability. “We are very pleased to be recognized by the Sierra Club for all of our hard work.”