Inside USD

Cool School: USD Ranks 14th on Sierra’s Greenest Schools List

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The University of San Diego ranks 14th nationally in the 2014 “Cool Schools” list of the greenest colleges and universities released today by Sierra magazine. USD improved 65 positions from its 2013 ranking of 79.

USD is the highest-ranked school in San Diego County for its efforts to protect the environment, address climate issues  and encourage environmental responsibility.

“We are honored and excited to receive this national recognition,” said USD President Mary E. Lyons. “Toreros everywhere can take pride in our efforts to cut water use, reduce energy costs, recycle electronic waste and plan wisely to conserve resources for generations to come. Our commitment to sustainability is also a manifestation of our Catholic values to protect God’s creation and I am very pleased at how it has become embedded into the fabric of our campus in just a few short years.”

USD’s success over the past year is due in large part to its Electronics Recycling Center, which diverted more than 515,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills — up from 269,000 pounds a year ago. USD also installed 28 electric vehicle charging stations and equipped the campus with 222 upgraded bike racks.

With a severe drought facing California, USD has continued to reduce water usage by more than 45 million gallons annually versus the baseline year of 2006. This 30-percent reduction in water consumption is due to comprehensive efficiency retrofits that also realized an energy savings of more than 6 million kilowatt hours — a reduction of more than 20 percent.

USD is also home to the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, a network for public agencies in the San Diego region that is advancing comprehensive solutions to facilitate climate change planning. By contributing staffing and resources, USD is helping to expand our local governments’ capacity and expertise to address climate change impacts.

Since sustainability became a strategic initiative seven years ago, USD also has installed a 1.23-megawatt solar power system atop 11 campus buildings that provides up to 15 percent of the university’s peak electricity needs.

Michael Catanzaro, director of USD’s Office of Sustainability, credited the university’s rise in the rankings to its continued sustainability efforts, along with better data collection to fully complete the detailed survey required for submission.

“Being in the top 15 is our greatest achievement to date,” he said. “It’s truly a campus-wide achievement and we are grateful for everyone’s help and support now and in the future as we continue to grow and improve our sustainability efforts.”

More than 150 colleges and universities fill out the extensive survey created in a collaboration between Sierra, the official publication of the Sierra Club and the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Using a customized scoring system, Sierra ranked the universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards.

See a full rankings list of the 173 colleges that includes each school’s completed questionnaire. More information is also available at

— Liz  Harman

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