Top 5 Greenest American Colleges

Right now young people across the country are getting prepared for one of the biggest transitions of their lives, their first year at college. Universities and colleges are not only centers of learning for young adults but also focal points for communities, places where research and discovery take place, and home to up to tens of thousands of students, teachers, and faculty. Being such large and encompassing pieces of infrastructure, it is all the more important that colleges build sustainable and eco-friendly campuses that’ll minimize the environmental impact that the student body has while also cultivating eco-friendly habits for the students. So today we’re looking at the green initiatives behind the 5 Greenest Colleges in America, as ranked by the Princeton Review.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Number five on the list is St. Mary’s College of Maryland. They earned their spot by combining sustainable architecture with frequent environmental outreach and activism programs. Their many LEED certified buildings include a hall that saves 300,000 gallons of water annually, geothermal heat pumps that save up to 50% of energy costs on heating and cooling buildings, green cleaning services, and several solar power installations. In addition, they try and get students personally involved in sustainability, with a sustainability club, a campus farm, a veggie co-op, and more.

Dickinson College

The number four greenest college is Dickinson College. This small private school in Carlisle Pennsylvania works to have a big positive impact on the planet. Stand out among these initiatives is the “living laboratory” system, whose hands on approach to learning include their beekeeping practice, maintaining an eighty acre organic farm to stock their cafeteria, and the ALLARM water quality monitoring group that operates across the state. They’ve also set up an Energy Dashboard so that students and faculty can monitor the campuses energy consumption in real time as they move towards carbon neutrality.

University of Vermont

Third up is a state university that lives up the the Green Mountain State’s nickname. The University of Vermont started tracking it’s sustainability record all the way back in 1996, gathering a comprehensive look at all aspects of the university to understand its impact, and sustainability initiatives have grown exponentially since then. These include the 2005 Green building initiative that requires all new buildings and renovations reach a minimum of a LEED sustainability certification, upgrading that policy to meet LEED Silver guidelines in 2007, the 2008 founding of the Office of Sustainability which coordinates sustainable teaching, research, and outreach, and in 2015 making courses on sustainability a general education requirement for all undergraduates. 

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

In second place is the first college in the United States to focus exclusively on environmental sciences. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry was founded all the way back in 1911 and incorporated into the state school system in 1948, and as you can imagine the “stumpies” of the school practice the sustainable lifestyle they study. Between the LEED platinum certified Gateway Center lecture hall and food services building that produces much more energy than it uses, the wind turbine, the shrub willow biomass energy system, the rooftop gardens, the easily accessible composting and reusables, and the rain gardens, every step you take on this campus involves green design and eco-friendly thinking.

College of the Atlantic

Finally we have a small, private liberal arts college in coastal Maine that exclusively focuses on Bachelors and Masters in the field of Human Ecology. The College of the Atlantic is the country’s first carbon neutral college, the first college to commit to eliminating single-use plastics, and home to some incredible sustainable initiatives. Maintaining 300 acres of forests and farmland allows students unrivaled access to forest stewardship, sustainable farming and livestock initiatives, and ocean conservation, along with access to the surrounding Acadia National Park. At the college and the farms you can find hundreds of solar panels, a centralized wood-pellet boiler system for heat and hot water, passive energy architecture designed to maximize light and heat from the sun, composting toilets, recycling on every floor, compostable single-use products, and some of the best insulation systems in the country to ensure maximum energy efficiency. The College of the Atlantic easily earns a top spot on this list.

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