The Ol’ College Try

Colleges across America are making sustainability a priority both in their academic offerings and their campus life. Institutions are doing everything from collecting fryer oil to use in campus vehicles to expanding environmental studies programs. They are inspiring the bright minds that will inherit the environment from the current generation.

We felt it was important to showcase these institutions. Thanks to The Princeton Review, they have produced The Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges.

The Princeton Review’s third annual Green Rating evaluates colleges and universities on their environmentally-related policies, practices and academic offerings.  The result is a numerical score on a scale of 60-99. The following colleges received a Green Rating of 99 percent

Arizona State (Tempe, Arizona)

At Arizona State University, sustainability is a fundamental precept underlying its teaching, learning, research and business missions. ASU President Michael Crow is co-chair of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. The Tempe campus has the largest collection of energy-providing solar panels on a single U.S. university campus.

Established in 2007, ASU’s School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers transdisciplinary degree programs that advance practical solutions to environmental, economic and social challenges. The school has over 60 faculty representing over 40 disciplines and offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs along with a professional certificate.

ASU subsidizes bus and light rail passes for all students and employees and offers car-sharing and a carpool program with special parking privileges. A student-run bicycle co-op offers low- or no-cost bike repairs and free bike rentals.

College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine)

College of the Atlantic has one major, Human Ecology. How humans relate to our environment is on the minds of all at COA—artists, scientists, and social activists. And COA practices what it teaches: It has been carbon neutral since 2007. All electricity comes from renewable hydropower; new buildings and some old are cleanly heated via renewable wood pellets.??An organic Beech Hill Farm (partially powered by a wind turbine, thanks to student effort) offers organic produce to campus, local schools and food banks.

COA has a new Trans-Atlantic Food Systems program and a growing undergraduate green and socially responsible business program. Recycling bins are in every office, composting bins in every kitchen and composting toilets in all new buildings. Alumni take on the environment in Congress, business and global negotiations—including those that created the world’s largest underwater preserve.

Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, North Carolina)

Environmental Studies is a popular major at Warren Wilson College, with six different concentrations and a new cross-disciplinary sustainability curriculum available.The school was one of the first in the country to institute on-campus recycling in the 1980s.

Much of the food served by the school’s dining halls comes from an on-campus farm and garden. An Environmental Leadership Center provides sustainability-focused events and opportunities for both students and the local community, including a regular radio program broadcast on Asheville’s WPVM.

Among the residence halls on campus is the LEED Platinum EcoDorm built by student teams with wood that was repurposed or sustainably harvested on campus. The dorm also features solar panel window awnings, compost toilets, a rainwater catchment system that helps irrigate the adjacent garden, and many other waste-minimizing features.

West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

West Virginia University is a national leader in energy research. Over the past four years, 100 faculty members have completed $98 million worth of energy-related research in everything from enhanced fuel cell production to textile recycling. WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (CAFEE) is working on new technology to reduce exhaust emissions and dependence on imported oil.

WVU’s trayless dining initiative has reduced waste in dining halls by 42 percent. Excess food is donated to charities, and used cooking oil is sent to a biodiesel processor. WVU promotes student involvement in campus sustainability through events like Ecolympics, a competition between residence halls to conserve the most energy and recycle the most waste.

Last year, the two winning buildings reduced energy consumption by 20 percent and recycled more than 2500 pounds of waste. During WVU’s A-WEAR-ness campaign, students collect bags of clothing and donate them to the homeless. Over 1,700 bags of clothing were collected for this project in one year.

Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington)

The Evergreen State College’s thousand-acre campus features miles of trails, a half mile of beach on Puget Sound, wetlands, forests and even an organic farm. The farm is used to teach a broad range of courses such as small-scale organic agriculture, ethnobotany, visual arts, beekeeping, forest ecology, and ecological agriculture.

The Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education at Evergreen has launched the Curriculum for the Bioregion, an effort that focuses on incorporating environmental and sustainability issues into general education college courses throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Students recently launched the Center for Sustainable Entrepreneurship, an effort to put their business skills to use in socially responsible ventures.

Evergreen has purchased a fleet of electric cars to replace many of its gasoline and diesel vehicles.  Evergreen students pay a self-imposed clean energy fee to ensure that 100 percent of the college’s electricity comes from renewable sources.  The school has also reduced its landfill waste by more than 97,000 pounds since 2008

Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard College is dedicated to confronting the challenges of climate change and global sustainability both through academic research and by translating that research into action on campus. Harvard’s goal is to reduce emissions 30% below a 2006 baseline by 2016.  These commitments are administered through the Harvard Office for Sustainability.

Harvard now has 62 building projects in process toward achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a 55% recycling rate, renewable energy projects on campus, composting in residential and commercial dining halls, organic landscaping in Harvard Yard, and a drive-alone rate of only 16.5%, to name just a few examples.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech has 21 endowed chairs, 23 research and more than 100 classes that include significant sustainability components. Sustainability is a key component of Georgia Tech’s Campus Master Plan and Landscape Master Plan. In 2008, Georgia Tech was recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation – quite an accomplishment for an urban campus.

Besides using environmentally friendly hand soap, paper products, cleaning equipment and other supplies, Georgia Tech requires that all vendors provide green products. The Institute’s cleaning equipment uses 70 percent less water and 90 percent less chemicals than traditional equipment. To further conserve water resources, Georgia Tech’s dining halls initiated a trayless system.

The Institute’s inaugural football game day recycling program collected nearly 12 tons of aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles from home game attendees.

Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

Northeastern University has integrated energy conservation into its facilities management plans since the 1980s. Most recently, a campus-wide installation of 70,000 low wattage T-8 fluorescent lamps was completed that will reduce carbon emissions by 686 tons annually. Over 8% of buildings under University operational control are now LEED Gold certified.  International Village, NU’s new 1,200 bed mixed-use dorm/office building, was awarded LEED Gold certification in 2010.

IV’s college dining facility was the first in the U.S. to earn both the 3-star certified Green Restaurant® distinction and LEED Gold status. As a result of “Compost Here”, an aggressive food composting initiative formerly known as “Project Clean Plate” approximately 594 tons of dining hall service and catering food waste were composted in 2009.  Northeastern’s recycling program started over 20 years ago and has expanded to include thirteen different categories of collected items, including asphalt and construction materials.

Unity College (Unity, ME)

Unity College goes by the moniker “America’s Environmental College.” It derives 100 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources, all of its grounds are maintained organically, and it uses only Green Seal-certified cleaning products.??Unity offers unique green majors like Sustainability Design and Technology, and Adventure Education Leadership, as well as more traditional offerings like Ecology and Marine Biology.

The university’s location on 225 wooded acres of farmland with plenty of diverse ecosystems, including a peat bog and a pond, provides students with experiential learning opportunities. Unity’s Center for Environmental Education teaches students how to become effective environmental educators, and the career services office offers over 80 environmental internships each year.??University administrators serve as role models for the eco-conscious student body.

The president and his wife live on campus in the Unity House, which is built from local wood and recycled building materials. The house uses solar energy for electricity and hot water, and has zero net-energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Also consider:

•    •    University of California- Berkeley –
•    •    University of California- Santa Barbara-
•    •    University of California- Santa Cruz-
•    •    University of Georgia-
•    •    University of Maine –
•    •    University of Maryland, College Park –
•    •    Yale University-


One Response to “The Ol’ College Try”


Read what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Who's Green AZ, aznaturesgarden. aznaturesgarden said: The Ol’ College Try: Colleges across America are making sustainability a priority both in their academic offerin… […]

Tell us what you're thinking...

Please share your thoughts and ideas with the Who's Green community.