Thompson Rivers University

TRU among Coolest Schools for third year

  Posted on: September 17, 2021

University’s new tree-planting program a factor

KAMLOOPS–Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is the only Canadian post-secondary institution included in the top 10 of the Sierra Club’s annual Coolest School rankings.

TRU placed third in the sustainability rankings of North American colleges and universities; the same position as last year. In 2019, TRU was at the top of the list as the No. 1 Coolest School.

This is the 15th year the Sierra Club has released its rankings, which are based on the institutions’ environmental track records. This year, Sierra received submissions from a record-breaking 328 schools across the United States and Canada.

Out of the 20 colleges and universities on this year’s list, there were only three from Canada; the rest are based in the US. Besides TRU, the other Canadian universities are both in Quebec: Université de Sherbrooke (11th) in Sherbrooke and Université Laval (13th) in Quebec City. Arizona State University came in first, while the University of California campus in Irvine came second.

Using a customized scoring system, independent researchers ranked colleges and universities based on academic criteria, such as environmentally-focused curricula, student engagement with environmental activism, renewable energy and waste management operations, and schools’ planning and administrative standards.

“This summer, we have experienced first-hand the effects of climate change and we deeply understand the need to take action. TRU continues to strive to reduce our environmental impact while being a place where solutions can be found,” said TRU President Brett Fairbairn.

“In addition to major projects we’ve initiated in recent years, we have launched programs for tree-planting and reusable cutlery. These might seem like small measures, but they tell our community that everyone can take steps to make a difference,” said James Gordon, TRU’s manager of sustainability programs.

“In the past 15 years, Cool Schools has evolved dramatically—we used to hear about light-green initiatives like double-sided printing and Earth Day parties. Today, schools have dedicated sustainability professionals who innovate pathways toward audacious zero-carbon and zero-waste and circular goals,” says Katie O’Reilly, Sierra‘s lifestyle and adventure editor.

Eddie Junsay, youth leadership director of the Sierra Club, pointed out that youth and students have always been at the forefront of movements for change.

“School campuses play an important role providing the environment for students to collectively develop their political analysis and learn how to advocate for the world they want to see. This issue is a chance for schools to heed the calls of their students to be leaders for climate and social justice.”

The full ranking of 328 colleges and universities is online at

The Sierra Club honour comes as TRU launches its Campus Tree Program while marking the 10th National Tree Day on Wed., Sept. 22, by planting 10 celebration maple trees.

The Campus Tree Program is a one-year program supported by the Sustainability Office, Horticulture department and Grounds Maintenance department. It requires volunteers from the TRU community to plant and care for trees throughout campus.

The program gets volunteers from the TRU community involved in maintaining one of the planet’s most vital sustainability attributes: thriving and healthy trees. TRU staff or contractors will oversee activities around the program to promote the goals of planting, caring for and preserving trees on the TRU campus. The program will likely lead to academic and research opportunities, and TRU is contributing to the Canadian government’s goal of planting 2 billion trees by 2030.

TRU students, staff, faculty, alumni and/or friends of TRU are invited to sign up. All COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed. Volunteers work in teams of three to help with the planting and caring of a tree(s), and the preservation of one or more of the existing 1,600 campus trees. Volunteers learning from TRU grounds/horticulture personnel about tree planting, care and preservation, while watching their trees grow. They receive a program certificate of completion and a ball cap.


James Gordon, manager of sustainability programs
Thompson Rivers University Sustainability Office
250-572-2740 (cell) |


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