Vermont Press Releases

Two of Sierra magazine’s top ‘Cool Schools’ are Vermont colleges

News Release — Sterling College
Aug. 22, 2017

Media Contact:
Darron Collins, College of the Atlantic
207-801-5601 • [email protected]

Karen Martinsen Fleming, Green Mountain College
(802) 287-2150 • [email protected]

Katie Lavin, Sterling College
(802) 586-7711 x111 • [email protected]

College of the Atlantic, Green Mountain College, and Sterling College Take Top Three Spots on Sierra’s “Cool Schools” List

—All three share environmental focus, small size, fossil fuel divestment, New England location

August 22, 2017 • Bar Harbor, ME and Poultney and Craftsbury Common, VT • A new ranking of environmentally-focused colleges reveals that New England is home to the greenest colleges in the nation.

College of the Atlantic, Green Mountain College, and Sterling College were awarded the top three spots in Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools,” the recently released ranking of the greenest colleges and universities in the U.S. The Cool Schools ranking is among the most well-known and prestigious sustainability rankings in higher education. The rankings recognize the colleges’ commitment to sustainability, which encompasses academics, research, operations, and engagement.

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“We applaud this year’s top three schools — the College of the Atlantic, Green Mountain College, and Sterling College — for their outstanding and continued commitment to sustainability and innovation,” said Sierra’s Editor in Chief Jason Mark. “Each of the three schools was recognized for both their individual achievements in clean energy, green curriculum, and sustainable food, respectively, as well as for their overall performance. It is their leadership, and the leadership of all schools ranked this year, that is helping to drive a positive change in both the classroom and beyond.”

Sierra, the official publication of the Sierra Club, released its eleventh annual “Cool Schools” ranking on August 22 of America’s most environmentally-minded colleges and universities. Out of a possible 1000 points, College of the Atlantic (#1) finished with a score of 779.58, Green Mountain College (#2) finished with a score of 745.80, and Sterling College (#3) finished with a score of 739.98. Over 200 colleges and universities were ranked.

“It’s no coincidence that these three great institutions were among the very first campuses to divest from fossil fuels–that’s a bottom-line requirement for environmental distinction, and a sign as well that they know how to do well by doing good,” said author and environmental activist Bill McKibben. “Such congratulations!”

However, the colleges have more than just fossil fuel divestment in common. All three are purposefully small, with undergraduate enrollments of under 1000 students.

“In the new millennium, concerns for the environment must be wedded to social justice and be central to everything we do,” said College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins ’92. “Our students will lead the way in this effort, and the more they are directly involved with the hard work of creating sustainable campuses and communities, the more they can gain the skills and confidence to create the future we all deserve.”

All have liberal arts curricula centered on the environment and sustainability. “This is a generation of students that understands the perils facing the planet and our climate, and want an education that prepares them to boldly respond to these challenges,” said Sterling College President Matthew Derr. “We are squarely focused on reshaping the human relationship with the natural world, as it is one of the most critical issues facing humanity today.”

And all three are located in northern New England, with College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, Green Mountain College at the foot of the Taconic Mountains in Vermont, and Sterling College just 35 miles from the Canadian border, also in Vermont. “For more than 20 years Green Mountain College has led the way in field-based, interdisciplinary and service-oriented environmental education,” said Green Mountain College President Bob Allen. “Our students are engaged citizens ready to tackle complicated, multi-faceted issues in their local communities and globally.”
The full list of colleges and universities can be found at



College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Maine, is 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. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines.

Green Mountain College is the only college in the nation to earn rankings in the top 15 “Cool Schools” in each of the past 8 years. Located in Poultney, VT, GMC’s leading environmental liberal arts curriculum focuses on environmental, economic and social applications of sustainability. Students may choose from 23 undergraduate majors and 4 online graduate programs. More than 70% of GMC students complete at least one internship and 97% of GMC graduates are employed, in graduate school or otherwise gainfully engaged.

Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, Sterling College is the leading voice in higher education for environmental stewardship. The College was among the first colleges in the United States to focus on sustainability through academic majors in Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, and Outdoor Education. Sterling College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and is one of only eight federally recognized Work Colleges in the nation.

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