Concerted sustainability efforts landed Lawrence University 44th on the Sierra Club’s fifth annual “cool school” rankings of the country’s top “green” colleges in the September/October edition of the environmental organization’s magazine. The ranking was an improvement of 62 places over 2010’s 106th ranking.

Lawrence was one of only three Wisconsin colleges — Northland College was 22nd and the University of Wisconsin-Madison 77th — to be included in the magazine’s list of 118 institutions. According to the magazine, surveys were distributed to 940 schools nationally.

In compiling its ranking, Sierra Club used a maximum 100-point scoring system based on goals and achievements in 10 categories: energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments, and a catch-all called “other initiatives.” With a maximum score of 10 points in each category, Lawrence finished with a composite score of 61.91, up from 57.5 a year ago.

Assisting Lawrence’s jump in the rankings:

• A five percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the past year — and a 41 percent reduction since 2002 — through energy efficiency changes.

• A 100 percent use of recycled paper on campus for photocopying and letterhead.

• A 15 percent commitment of the campus food budget on locally (within 100 miles) produced foodstuffs.

• The diversion of 30 tons of kitchen waste to the student-run sustainable garden on campus for composting.

• A total of 12,000 pounds of electronic waste collected and recycled in the campus’ first “e-sweep” last May.

• A first-place finish in the 2011 Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability’s “Campus Energy Challenge” with an overall energy reduction of 12.86 percent.

• A 10th-place finish in the 2011 Recyclemania national recycling competition (per capita category) with an average of 39.15 pounds per person.

“We should all be incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made this year, but we’re not planning to rest in 44th place,” said Jason Brozek, assistant professor of government and Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and current chair of Lawrence’s Green Roots initiative. “We have some really exciting projects in store for 2011-12, including wind power at Bjorklunden and outdoor recycling on campus. I’d like to see us take over the top spot for Wisconsin schools in next year’s rankings and continue to move toward the top of the national list.”

The University of Washington jumped from fourth in 2010 to first in the 2011 rankings, edging Green Mountain College, last year’s top-ranked school, with total scores of 81.2 and 81.1, respectively.

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,520 students from 44 states and 56 countries.