Black Hills State University was recognized nationally for its sustainability achievements as it was included on the annual listing of “Cool Schools.” BHSU is the only South Dakota school included in the listing.
“At BHSU we are working hard to do our part to protect the planet,” said Eva Chase, sustainability coordinator at BHSU. “From recycling on campus, to our online master’s degree in sustainability, to working with community gardeners to deliver locally-grown food to local people, we are taking both small and large steps to be more environmentally sustainable.”
The University was the first college in the state to install solar panels on a building this past summer. BHSU hosted a Solar Open House recently to share insights from the solar installation.
In 2017, BHSU was named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to the care and planting of 200 trees per year on campus. That same year, BHSU was also named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists.
This year marks the 12th annual “Cool Schools” listing compiled by Sierra magazine. Participation is open to all four-year, degree-granting undergraduate colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, along with two-year colleges.
Each ranking includes stats from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) STARS system, a self-reporting framework for colleges to measure their sustainability performance, and Sierra Club Cool School Points awarded. STARS stands for Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System.
“Our scoring system reflects the broader priorities of the Sierra Club. For example, we award a significant percentage of points in the areas of campus energy use, transportation, and fossil fuel divestment because the Sierra Club believes that progress in these sectors is essential for addressing the climate crisis,” according to the Sierra Club’s website.
In the listing, BHSU was ranked 215 in the nation and received a top score in the innovation category and a strong score in the curriculum category when compared with closely-ranked peers.
To even make it on this list is a prestigious award in itself, said Chase. According to Sierra Club’s website, there are over 2,000 four-year universities in the U.S., and only 269 schools are included in this year’s listing.
About Sustainability at BHSU
Sustainability is part of who we are at Black Hills State University. We live, work, and educate in the Black Hills of South Dakota—an area that has been sacred to Native Americans for centuries. At the center of BHSU’s list of values is “Authenticity: Leading with integrity and sustainable best practices; honoring our heritage, celebrating our diversity, serving our community, and thriving in the Spirit of the Black Hills.” At BHSU, we bring the world into the classroom and the classroom into the world—an educational mindset that allows us to incorporate many facets of sustainability into student learning. We take pride in the importance of protecting our environment, and we encourage our students to engage in sustainability issues, using their intellectual capital to solve problems here and abroad.
In 2007, Black Hills State University became the first South Dakota university honored as a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging to become carbon neutral by 2050. Since signing that commitment, BHSU has made advances in recycling, education, energy efficiency, and community outreach. The effort and collaboration of many people produced recent successes in our sustainable growth, including graduating our first class of Masters of Science in Sustainability students, achieving Tree Campus USA designation, and creating the Black Hills Food Hub.