The Most Environmentally Friendly Colleges in the United States

Environmentally Friendly Colleges
Schools throughout the country are becoming more environmentally sustainable through green construction projects, the use of alternative energy sources, and other innovations. Some colleges have adopted the U.S. Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines. Mark Orlowski, the executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, said, “Colleges are now taking pride in greener campuses and sustainability-savvy investments – increasingly important concerns for parents and students in choosing a school.”

Here are some highlights from the country’s leading environmentally friendly colleges:

  • Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA): With funds from the student body’s self-imposed clean-energy fee, the college purchases renewable-energy credits for 100% of it’s electricity.
  • Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT): The campus gets its power and heat from biomass and biogas.
  • College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME): COA, which has been carbon neutral since 2007, is powered by hydropower. New buildings as well as some of the older ones are heated cleanly from renewable wood pellets. The school’s organic Beech Hill Farm provides organic food to the campus, food banks, and local schools.
  • Carleton College (Northfield, MN): Wind power provides about 40% of the campus’ power.
  • Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ): The Tempe campus is home to the largest collection of solar panels on a single university campus in the nation.

The Sustainable Endowments Institute

The Sustainable Endowments Institute’s College Sustainability Report Card shows grades and detailed reports about the “green status” of a large number of colleges and universities. You can also easily compare schools. The grades are based on the following criteria:

  • Administration
  • Climate Change & Energy
  • Food & Recycling
  • Green Building
  • Student Involvement
  • Transportation
  • Endowment Transparency
  • Investment Priorities
  • Shareholder Engagement

Shown below are some of the reasons these colleges are among the top rated green schools.

Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island)

  • Energy efficient technology, including heat recovery systems and economizers, have been installed throughout the campus.
  • More than one-third of energy purchases come from renewable sources.
  • The school’s dining services allocates 20% percent of the food budget to locally made or grown products.
  • At a minimum, all new construction is required to meet LEED Silver standards.

Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)

  • Energy management systems and economizers have been installed in a number of buildings.
  • The campus has a biodiesel plant.
  • The central energy boilers were converted to burn waste vegetable oil.
  • 50% of it’s food budget is used on local food items.
  • The campus farm grows vegetables and herbs.
  • The dining halls compost pre- and post-consumer food scraps.
  • At a minimum, new construction is required to meet LEED Silver standards. Three buildings are LEED Gold certified.
  • The school has a sustainability-themed residence hall.

Luther College (Decorah, Iowa)

  • Luther has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20% since 2003 and is committed to a 50% reduction by 2012.
  • Geothermal energy is generated on campus and energy management systems are employed.
  • Dining halls serve organic produce.
  • Food waste is composted after every meal.
  • Unwanted items are sold at the school’s reuse store.
  • All campus construction is required to be built to LEED Silver standards.
  • Food is grown at the Luther College Gardens.
  • 75% of construction and demolition waste is diverted from landfills.
  • The college manages stormwater with retention ponds, porous pavement, and vegetated swales.

Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)

  • 40% of electricity bought for the campus comes from renewable energy sources.
  • Three buildings are heated with geothermal pump systems.
  • All new construction products and major renovations are required to meet LEED Silver Standards.
  • Dining halls spend 22% of their food budget on local products.
  • Three different sustainability-themed housing options are offered for students.
  • Students operate The Free Store, a very popular swap shop on campus.

Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)

  • Yale uses a cogeneration facility, energy management systems, and lighting sensors to decrease energy use.
  • Dining services spends 43% of it’s food budget on organic and local products.
  • The school operates move-out and year-round materials exchange initiatives.
  • All new construction must meet LEED Gold standards.

For even more rankings and information, check out the 18 colleges that received a Green Rating of 99 (the highest score) from Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll. The Sierra Club has also ranked the most environmentally friendly schools in the country in its America’s 100 Greenest Schools list.

Many colleges have adopted policies to become more environmentally friendly. By using the resources in this article, college students can read detailed reviews of their schools’ green status.

[Wes Harrison is a writer for New Jersey Colleges, a site dedicated to higher education in the Garden State.]

Image: kevindooley at Flickr

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