Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

Sierra Magazine Names Willamette One of Nation’s Greenest Schools

Ryan W.

Willamette students started a Bike Shop on campus.


Kaneko Commons is LEED Gold certified and includes solar panels.


Students remove invasive plants at Zena Forest.

Sierra, the official magazine of the Sierra Club, named Willamette University one of the nation’s greenest universities in its third annual “Cool Schools” issue.

Willamette was the only Oregon university to make the list, placing 17th among the 20 schools featured for their efforts to stop climate change and operate sustainably. This honor adds to Willamette's recognition as a green school - in 2008, the National Wildlife Federation named Willamette first in the nation for sustainability activities.

"The next generation of students cares deeply about stopping global warming, and schools like Willamette that take the initiative to become environmentally responsible are doing the right thing for the planet and are better poised to attract the best students," said Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director.

Schools were graded in eight categories, and Willamette scored particularly well in efficiency, purchasing, food and transportation. Willamette employs water and energy efficiency technologies, has a green purchasing policy, and has two buildings certified or on track to be certified LEED Gold - the Kaneko Commons residential facility and the Ford Hall academic building, opening this fall.

"Our research proved that Willamette is pretty far ahead of the game when it comes to efficiency, and the university makes a big effort when it comes to buying green products for the campus," said Avital Binshtock, lifestyle editor of Sierra and editor of the "Cool Schools" feature. "A recent Princeton Review survey showed that two-thirds of college applicants say a school's environmental record would influence whether they enroll. We at the Sierra Club believe that a new realm of prestige for higher education institutions is how green they are."

"We are pleased to be included in this short list of the ‘green elite,'" said Joe Bowersox, director of Willamette's Center for Sustainable Communities. "Willamette is working hard to create a culture of sustainability across all sectors of the university, from our teaching and research to the way we come to work to our management of campus facilities. We have great leadership and support from our administrators and staff, as well as our faculty and students."

Other initiatives that contributed to Willamette's recognition include:

  • In 2008 Willamette purchased 305 acres at Zena Forest, a sustainably managed forest west of Salem, to create a sustainability field research station. The Center for Sustainable Communities offers research and programmatic opportunities for students, faculty and the community; and both the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management offer specialized programs relating to sustainability.
  • Seventy percent the food served at the university travels less than 500 miles to campus, and about sixty-five percent is sustainably produced or harvested.
  • Willamette students opened a campus Bike Shop that provides free bicycle rentals, maintenance and repairs. Willamette hosts the Zipcar car-sharing program, campus security vehicles are hybrids, and the university is replacing its gas-powered work vehicles with electric vehicles.
  • Willamette manages 95 percent of the campus grounds organically, reducing the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and employing techniques such as hand weeding, vinegar sprays, compost tea and reusing coffee grounds in planting beds.

To read the entire "Cool Schools" feature, visit www.sierraclub.org/coolschools. For more about Willamette's sustainability initiatives, visit www.willamette.edu/about/sustainability