Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” Rating Announces NAU as a National Leader in Sustainability!


Northern Arizona University’s Gold Sustainability Ranking
Gets it Listed on Sierra Club’s Cool School List

Student Sustainability Leaders

In 2015, student sustainability leaders Brandon Vanbibber, Dylan Lenzen and Jessica Lazor helped lead NAU to a huge year of sustainability accomplishments.

Sierra magazine, which is the official publication of the Sierra Club, released its annual “Cool Schools” ranking of the greenest higher education institutions in the nation. After assessing 100’s of schools that participate in an extensive sustainability survey created by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), NAU ranked 51st in the Nation! The magazine ranks universities based on their commitment to upholding high environmental standards and implementing projects and initiatives that demonstrate this commitment. Innovative research and development, renewable energy installations, educating students in the most advanced thinking on sustainability, and other innovative initiatives and projects gain institutions points and higher positions in the ranking.

2015 marked an important year for sustainability advancement at NAU. In recent years NAU has experienced a growth in student enrollment of 6,750 and an increase in facility square footage of 50% since 2002. Due to green building and aggressive energy efficiency upgrades the campus has an overall reduction of campus electricity consumption per square foot by 18% and its natural gas use per square foot by 33% since 2002. “We’re having even better successes with our water conservation efforts,” said Ellen Vaughan who manages NAU’s Office of Sustainability. “We recognize that NAU is a huge entity in this arid region and we’re quite proud to have actually reduced our total potable and reclaimed water use since 2002.” NAU has invested over 18 million dollars in retrofitting mechanical systems, light fixtures, faucets, shower heads, urinals, and HVAC systems to cut our consumption of water, natural gas, and electricity.

“The large efficiency retrofit is not the only reason NAU was able to decrease its environmental footprint,” said Vaughan. “Newly constructed buildings on campus are designed to LEED Gold standards where sustainability is at the forefront of design and construction consideration. A good example is the International Pavilion (IP) building that was constructed during the summer of 2015 and achieved a Platinum LEED certification.” NAU is measuring the IP this year to see if it will be their first net zero emissions building through a high efficiency design and solar PV installation on its roof.

NAU also seeks to engage faculty and staff through the Energy Mentors program in order to reduce electricity waste around the campus. “By training volunteer faculty and staff to engage peers on energy consumption habits, we are able to cultivate a sense of responsibility and culture of sustainability around the campus” said Avi Henn who helps run the program through the Office of Sustainability.

“Through NAU’s persistent commitment to sustainability, we recently received designation as a Tree Campus USA university”, said John Morris who is the Associate Vice President of Facility Services at NAU. “There are many passionate and dedicated people at NAU that help the university implement its sustainability goals” added Morris.

A key component to the success of NAU is the student participation in sustainable initiatives around campus. “The student led NAU Green Fund, which provides funding for projects that reduce NAU’s negative impact on the environment, has provided funding to many of the sustainability focused projects in 2015,” said Jessica Lazor who is a graduate student at the Climate Sciences and Solutions program and the chair of the Green Fund. “These projects included providing funding for the IP, construction of the gardner snake vivarium, the installation of water saving irrigation systems, and the award winning hot air heater installation on the Property Surplus building” added Lazor.

“These are only some of the things that make NAU a university that prioritizes sustainability,” concluded Vaughan. “We are always looking to the future and are seeking for ways to do our part in mitigating the effects of fossil fuel use and climate change. Green NAU is honored by this recognition and will continue to strive for sustainability accomplishments across campus and throughout the community.

For a full list of Green NAU’s accomplishments last year (including going retail plastic bag free, implementing a successful Students for a Better World Seminar Series, holding an inaugural sustainable wine competition, having NAU’s first home football “Green Game,” becoming EPA’s “Big Sky Conference” winner for their Green Power Partnership Challenge, multiple composting and food recovery projects, and much more) CLICK HERE.

Green Jacks at Grand Canyon