San José State University Receives First International Sustainability Ranking and Listed Among Green Colleges Nationally

Photo by David Schmitz.

Once again, San José State University’s sustainability rankings have made headlines.

This fall, San José State was listed as one of the Princeton Review’s Green Colleges for 2021 and one of the Sierra Club’s top 50 2020 Cool Schools. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) named San José State a top overall performer in sustainability, with special recognition of the CSU Single Use Plastics Policy and the Housing Crisis Mitigation Plan. To top it off, this week, SJSU has received its first international ranking in sustainability, listed in the top 15 percent of universities for the 2020 UI GreenMetric World University Rankings, an initiative of Universitas Indonesia.

What are the criteria for being “green” or “cool?” Princeton Review surveyed 416 schools on everything from solar-powered dorms to clean energy career preparation. The Sierra Club included SJSU among the top 50 of 312 schools to receive a valid Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) rating, which provides a framework for understanding sustainability in higher education. The GreenMetric rankings were established in 2010 to establish a way to measure sustainability across universities worldwide, taking into consideration university enrollment and size, campus location and green space, energy use, transport, water use, recycling and waste treatment.

“We follow the United Nations’ sustainability goals, which define it as not just taking care of the planet, but taking care of the people on the planet,” Debbie Andres, ’07 Chemical Engineering, SJSU senior utilities and sustainability analyst. “People often think of sustainability in terms of science and engineering, but you can really incorporate sustainability in every college, in every discipline.”

Andres collaborated with multiple departments across campus when submitting data for sustainability rankings. She worked with Ben Falter of the SJSU Cares program and senior student affairs case manager, to submit data about the Housing Crisis Mitigation Plan, which includes over $3 million in grants for student housing insecurity and basic needs support from the California State University system, as well as the development of new housing for undergraduate and transfer students. In addition, the State of California transferred a surplus, obsolete building to SJSU, which will be used to develop up to 1,200 housing units for faculty and staff, graduate students, and students with families.

“Yes, we use recycled water, but we are also trying to make it easier for students, faculty and staff to live nearby and go to school,” said Andres.

Andres added that the Princeton Review’s 2020 College Hopes & Worries survey found that 66 percent of nearly 13,000 college applicants consider a school’s environmental commitment when deciding where to go.

“San José State is the oldest CSU, the oldest university west of the Mississippi, and we are also a feeder school for the biggest tech companies on the planet,” said Andres. “It’s really important for us to reflect that we care about the environment and sustainability, just like many companies in Silicon Valley. It’s important that future students know that we are doing things that are very important to you—we are doing what’s right for the environment.”

Andres said that 30 percent of SJSU classes are designated sustainable, though that number could be higher now that courses are being offered online due to the pandemic. She has partnered with resources across campus, including the Gender Equity Center and the Black/African American Student Success Center, to offer sustainability-related programming. Currently enrolled students can visit the Office of Sustainability website to browse courses across all ten colleges that offer topics in sustainability, read the 2020 Sustainability Report and discover easy ways to make their lives a little greener.