August 07, 2008

Princeton Review's New "Green" Rating Places SSU Among the Top Environmental Campuses in U.S.

Sonoma State University earned a major "green" rating in a new category developed this year by the Princeton Review in its annual 2009 Best 368 Colleges issue this year. An burgeoning interest among students in attending schools that practice, teach and support environmentally-responsible choices is being noticed by educators across the country.

SSU earned a score of 98 out of 99 and was topped only by 11 other U.S. campuses that included Harvard University, Arizona State University and the University of Oregon.

SSU outperformed ten other California colleges who scored in the 90s - UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Santa Clara University, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Stanislaus, Claremont McKenna and Stanford University.

The Princeton Review developed the new rating in partnership with ecoAmerica. The institutional survey for the rating included questions on energy use, recycling, food, buildings, transportation, academic offerings (availability of environmental studies degrees and courses) and action plans and goals concerning greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Sonoma State's efforts towards sustainability include a public commitment to sustainability in its strategic plan and myriad opportunities for students to participate in sustainability research as part of the Green Campus Pilot Program. It also has a highly-regarded Environmental Studies and Planning program and employs a dedicated full-time sustainability officer.

A pioneer in the development of sustainable building projects - both retrofitted and new construction - has made the Rohnert Park campus a leader in the California State University system. Campus architects and engineers now develop new projects according to a LEED silver standard.

A groundbreaking Green Building Certificate program has trained many private citizens and governmental officials how to design and build with sustainable concepts in mind.

Other sustainable facts about SSU include:
58% waste diversion rate
45% of food expenditures go toward local, organic, or otherwise environmentally preferable food
33% of the meals in the dining halls have complete vegetarian options
75% of cleaning products (by total expenditures) are Green Seal certified
25% of managed campus grounds are maintained organically
15% of student trips use alternative transportation such as bicycles

"The green movement on college campuses is far more than an Earth Day recycling project or a dining hall menu of organic food," says Robert Franek, Vice President and Publisher at The Princeton Review.

"The commitment that many colleges and their student bodies have made to environmental issues - indeed, to the environment - in their practices, use of resources, and academic and research programs is truly compelling. It is the students of today who will face and hopefully find solutions for the enormous environmental challenges confronting our planet's future."

Three undertakings that represent SSU's environmental commitment, include:

The Student Recreation Center: sustainable design features, which increase energy efficiency and strive to lessen impact on the environment, includes the extensive use of energy-saving day lighting, clerestories, and skylights; HVAC zones using a high efficiency indirect-direct evaporating cooling system, supplemented by natural ventilation and night-time natural cooling and radiant hydronic floor heating; high-efficiency fluorescent lighting tied to photo-sensors and occupancy sensors; Energy Star appliances; reclaimed water toilets, urinals and for irrigation, low flow faucets; the use of sustainable woods for flooring and many other techniques.

The Environmental Technology Center: incorporates a wide range of sustainable building techniques and features that minimize energy use, consuming less than 50 percent of the energy allowed by the state cold for similar buildings. The "Green Building" features include: passive solar heating and cooling, day lighting, advanced window systems, "smart building" control technologies, photovoltaic, and energy and water-efficient landscaping.

Salazar Hall Renovation: The former University library is now one of the most energy efficient public buildings in northern California and has one of the largest solar panel grids in the region, covering 9,500 square feet with 1,200 panels. In addition to utilizing solar panels in its energy collection, SSU's Salazar Hall also features evaporative cooling features that in the past year supplied conditioned air to 120,000 square feel of classroom and office building with almost no mechanical cooling required. The result of this has been a 70 percent reduction in cost of operations as compared to a traditional efficient mechanical cooling system.

Small classes, a great library, amazing athletic facilities and friendly students were other criteria that helped SSU to be named as one of the "Best 368 Colleges." An outstanding undergraduate education is one of the main criteria for the Prinecton Review's annual publication.

Only 15 percent of the 2,500 four-year colleges in America and two Canadian colleges were chosen for the book. The 368 colleges are determined from assessments by Princeton Review's Vice President of Publishing Robert Franek and a 25-member advisory board.

The company visits colleges across the country and collects information on over 2,000 colleges annually. Students are surveyed in 62 categories, including campus life, financial aide, housing, social and sports interests.

The ranking list in the 2009 edition of "Best 368 Colleges" is based on the Princeton Review's survey of 120,000 students - about 325 per campus on average - and institutional data from each college.

The profile also provides extensive quotes from SSU students surveyed by the Princeton Review staff for the book. Their candid comments on campus life and academics included: " 'it seems like everyone can find a niche'; 'a 'wonderful' psychology program; a business program that 'is very well put together, with very helpful, good teachers'; and 'excellent health care and science majors,' including a unique environmental management and design program."

SSU students also mentioned palace-like dorms, great computer facilities and overall student happiness frequently in their surveys. They also loved the small class sizes at SSU, which allowed for "a very personal connection between the student and the professor."

Among 10,300 college applicants and parents of applicants surveyed by The Princeton Review this year for its annual "College Hopes & Worries Survey," 63% of respondents overall said they would value having information about a college's commitment to the environment.

Among that cohort, 23% overall said such information would "strongly" or "very much" impact their/their child's decision to apply to or attend the school, with a higher percentage of students (24%) than parents (18%) expressing this opinion.

Executive Director of ecoAmerica, Lee Bodner, noted "forward-looking colleges and universities see the alignment between policies that are both good for the environment and good for students," he says.

"The ratings show that there are a huge number of schools of every type and in every part of the country that are going the extra mile to offer a great quality of life and give students a leg up in the 21st century green economy."

For more information, visit Princeton Review.

Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057