Students install solar panels on a rooftop at College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm. Through courses such as “Practicum in Renewable Energy” and “The Physics and Math of Sustainable Energy,” sustainability is central to the College of the Atlantic curriculum.Students install solar panels on a rooftop at College of the Atlantic's Beech Hill Farm. Through courses such as “Practicum in Renewable Energy” and “The Physics and Math of Sustainable Energy,” sustainability is central to the College of the Atlantic curriculum.

Sierra attributes COA’s number one spot to its successful and thorough integration of sustainability into the curriculum, to the complete divestment of its endowment from fossil fuels, and to100 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources, among other factors.

“We are honored to receive this kind of recognition for the environmental commitments we’ve made since our first class walked through our doors in 1972,” COA President Darron Collins ’92 said. “I think our high ranking is an indication that, where ‘greenness’ is concerned, it’s not the number of solar panels you can install in a given year, it’s about how imbedded ecology, the environment, and sustainability is within the curriculum.”

More than 200 schools participated in Sierra’s extensive survey about sustainability practices on their campus. Colby College, coming in at #4, is the only other Maine college or university to make the list.
COA students in Dr. Chris Petersen's <a href="/live/profiles/1628-marine-biology">Marine Biology</a> course count clams at Bar Harbor's Hadley Point Beach. As part of the course, students <span style="font-weight: 400;">examine the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on marine life. </span>COA students in Dr. Chris Petersen's Marine Biology course count clams at Bar Harbor's Hadley Point Beach. As part of the course, students examine the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on marine life. “This year is the tenth anniversary of the Cool Schools ranking and we are thrilled to name the College of the Atlantic this year’s greenest campus,” said Jason Mark, Sierra’s editor in chief. “College of the Atlantic is a great example of how schools can make sustainability a key part of their mission.”

Collins noted that, in addition to divesting the endowment of fossil fuels, COA is working towards being a fossil-fuel-free campus. Since students are involved in every step of the process, the work itself becomes an important part of sustainability education, Collins said.

“At COA we measure our success by how much students learn and by how successful they are at applying that learning out in the world. If we were 100 percent off-the-grid and carbon negative, but students didn’t learn a thing in the process, it would not do us much good,” Collins said.

According to Sierra’s Cool Schools rankings, at least 75 percent of COA’s faculty are engaged in sustainability research, while more than 35 percent of the classes offered are related to environmentalism.

This year, questions having to do with energy and transportation carried more weight than ever before with Sierra, reflecting their belief that global climate change is the most pressing environmental threat today. The Sierra Club and its Sierra Student Coalition believe that fossil fuel divestment is an important strategy for transitioning to a 100 percent clean energy economy.

Sierra magazine’s Cool Schools rankings help to recognize those schools that have made sustainability a key part of their mission, and are creating future environmental leaders,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

The full ranking of 202 colleges, including each school’s completed questionnaire, can be found online at www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

Students in the <a href="/live/profiles/1622-ornithology">Ornithology</a> course get a close-up view of some of the bird life in nearby Acadia National Park. Field ecology and natural history are important areas of study at the college, offering students experiential, practical work in the field and lab, and allowing them to see the natural world as a dynamic and evolving set of species and environments.Students in the Ornithology course get a close-up view of some of the bird life in nearby Acadia National Park. Field ecology and natural history are important areas of study at the college, offering students experiential, practical work in the field and lab, and allowing them to see the natural world as a dynamic and evolving set of species and environments.

Founded in 1969, College of the Atlantic was the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology – the study of how humans interact with our natural, social and technological environments. For more information, visit www.coa.edu

Sierra is the national magazine of the Sierra Club, America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, go to www.sierramagazine.com.