Sierra magazine's fifth annual Cool Schools list is out, and the University of Washington takes the top spot with a score of 81.2. The University of Washington climbed up from number four last year to oust Green Mountain College from the first-place spot.

Sierra magazine recognized several different eco-conscious programs in place at the school including the University of Washington’s green building program. Every new building completed since 2006 has earned a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Other green features recognized by Sierra magazine include the use of EnergyStar appliances, the school’s use of renewable energy and a comprehensive campus recycling program.

Poultney, Vermont-based Green Mountain College, last year’s greenest college, came in just behind the University of Washington with a score of 81.1 out of 100. Green programs in place at the school include a renewable energy program courtesy of Central Vermont Cow Power — yes, cow power. The company captures the biogas from cow manure and converts it into usable energy.

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) earned the number three spot this year, climbing up from number 15 on the Cool Schools 2010 list. UCSD’s generous use of solar energy helped the school snag a top three ranking this year.

While these three colleges should be commended for their eco-friendly commitments, the entire top 10 list deserves recognition.

Sierra’s 2011 Top 10 Coolest Schools:

  1. University of Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
  2. Green Mountain College (Poultney, Vt.)
  3. University of California, San Diego (San Diego, Calif.)
  4. Warren Wilson College (Asheville, N.C.)
  5. Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)
  6. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)
  7. University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
  8. University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)
  9. Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)
  10. Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt.)
The 2011 Cool Schools list was created after 118 different schools responded to Sierra magazine’s 12-page eco questionnaire. The survey included questions in 10 different categories, with a maximum of 10 points available in each category: energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments and other initiatives.

For more information on the top 10 schools or to see how your alma mater ranked, visit Sierra’s 2011 Coolest Schools information page.

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