Daily Archives: September 18, 2009

Mapping The Greenest Universities

The Sierra Club just released its 2009 “cool schools” ranking—colleges and universities judged to be doing the most to help the planet. The judging criteria included efficiency, energy, food usage, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste, and administration. More and more college applicants say that a university’s environmental stewardship could influence their decision to enroll there. The spatial thinker always wants to map things to determine if a pattern exists, so we built a geodatabase to analyze the 135 universities included in the study.

Only six colleges and universities earned the top grade of “A+”. The pattern of these universities spanned the breadth of the country (green dots), as did the universities scoring an “F” (blue dots). As is often the case once data is analyzed spatially, some preconceived notions were shattered. California universities appeared 3 times among the 10 most green and also the 10 least green universities. Vermont contained some very green universities, but also colleges scoring D’s. Along the same lines, the mean population of the cities containing the 10 greenest universities was 437,000, but the population of the cities containing the 10 least green universities was 144,985. Green universities can and do thrive even in urban settings. As always one should look critically at the data. What is the mission of the Sierra Club, and how did it generate its data? What criteria did they not collect that you wish they had? How does this list compare to the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll? Explore the data for yourself in ArcGIS Desktop on ArcLessons.

GIS is a green technology [PDF] because it provides the technological and scientific support necessary for processes such as GeoDesign, for returning our planet to more sustainable practices. This includes everything from planning wind farms to studying climate change to planting urban forests, and much more. Universities are using GIS to manage their facilities, in instruction, and in environmental research. In fact, 19 of the greenest 20 universities in the Sierra Club’s listing have a site license for ArcGIS software!

- Joseph Kerski and Mike Gould, ESRI Education Team.

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