Since 2012, AASHE has collaborated with Sierra and The Princeton Review to allow colleges and universities to use the STARS Reporting Tool to share their sustainability data for potential inclusion in Sierra’s Cool Schools ranking and The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges.

In December 2021, Sierra announced that it has opted to discontinue publishing the Cool Schools rankings. Their announcement is included below.

STARS participants are still eligible to be included in the Guide to Green Colleges and AASHE’s Sustainable Campus Index (SCI). The deadline for potential inclusion in both publications is March 4, 2022.

15 December 2021

Re: Future of SIERRA Magazine’s Cool Schools program

Dear university sustainability professionals,

On behalf of everyone here at Sierra, I want to thank you for participating in our 15-year-strong Cool Schools rankings. But more than that, I want to express how awed and inspired we’ve been by the many ways in which you’ve innovated and challenged your schools and surrounding communities to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, waste streams, and resource use–while simultaneously increasing cutting-edge environmental curricula, engagement in climate action, and research into crucial ecological solutions. We’re proud to have seen Cool Schools gain participants each year, and to have had the immense privilege of stoking healthy competition among those who are perhaps best positioned to model impactful sustainable practices: university and college professionals.

However, after careful consideration, Sierra has opted to discontinue publishing our annual Cool Schools rankings. A major reason for this decision comes down to the ways in which the Sierra Club has redefined its mission in recent years to prioritize equity and inclusion in the environmental movement. We feel that publishing college rankings–while undoubtedly positive in many ways–runs counter to those values.

However, we are going to continue our relationship with AASHE–we will be keeping an eye on top-performing schools in the higher-ed sustainability space, and very likely publishing content based around STARS reports. That’s because we have every intention of keeping our readers abreast of sustainability news in higher education, and of finding new and more engaging ways of sharing your inspiring success stories–we’re just going to change how we present them! We’ve thus decided to re-focus Cool Schools for 2022, and to create more of a service-oriented package for students and other young people. If you have any story tips and ideas to this end, know that I am all ears, anytime! (Feel free to send thoughts to, and/or

I’m glad to know that the many fantastic sustainability officers among you–several of whom I’ve enjoyed getting to know over the years–will be in great hands when it comes to setting and meeting sustainability goals, thanks to AASHE’s comprehensive support and motivating benchmarks. We will be cheering you on from the sidelines, and I want to reiterate that I really do hope to continue to hear about your achievements and innovations.

Thank you again for a fantastic and fruitful partnership. We are so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, thanks to your great work, and to AASHE’s generous cooperation and support. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I wish you and your campus communities the best in all future sustainability endeavors.


Katie O’Reilly (she/her/hers)

Adventure + Lifestyle editor, Sierra