Top 40 Greenest College Campuses
- March 13, 2017
- Posted by: Jeff Gitlen
- Category: Top Colleges
College campuses throughout the world have long been renowned for their beautiful landscapes and architecture. While this still remains true, many colleges are now focusing on “going green” and designing their schools to be environmentally friendly. LendEDU has created a report detailing the 40 schools that have done the most to conserve our world.
LendEDU’s Top 40 Greenest College Campuses list was compiled after looking at hundreds of colleges and universities around the globe. While there were many schools with green initiatives, we were able to narrow our list down to the 40 best.
Our rankings were based on a multitude of factors that contribute to a school’s carbon footprint. Parameters taken into account included energy usage, the recycling program, environmentally safe architectural standards, available classes pertaining to environmental literacy, food sourcing, and alternative methods of transportation that were available.
The Top 40 Greenest College Campuses list featured a wide variety of schools. Both small and large institutions were part of the list, and even one international university cracked the top 40. Each school mentioned on the list has taken tremendous strides to improve the environmental friendliness of their campus.
The following schools have produced the best and most effective green initiatives and have made LendEDU’s Top 40 Greenest College Campuses list.
Top 40 Greenest College Campuses
1) Colorado State University – Fort Collins, CO
CSU is the flagship institution of the Colorado State University System and the state’s only land-grant school. The school recently implemented a number of sustainability projects. Not long ago, the university began construction on a wind farm to help power campus energy, and much of the new student housing on campus is designed in accordance with national green building standards. On the academic side, the university counts 962 courses related to sustainability and devoted to the environment, carbon footprints, etc. in all eight departmental colleges. Among the accolades that the school has received for its sustainability efforts include the Postsecondary Sustainability Award from the U.S. Department of Education and the first institution in the world to achieve a Platinum STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) rating, as well as a top bike-friendly university from the League of American Bicyclists.
2) Colby College – Waterville, ME
The largest school in the country to achieve campus carbon neutrality, Colby is well on its way to becoming a pioneer for a variety of green issues. All of the college’s electricity comes from hydro and biomass power; 10 percent of which is generated by a turbine right on campus. The school also claimed that all of its new buildings will be constructed according to LEED Silver standards and all renovated buildings on campus will try to incorporate sustainable features. The dining halls at Colby are another highly green element of the campus: local organic produce is a regular part of the menu, and they recently saved nearly 80,000 gallons of water and 50 tons of food waste annually.
3) University of South Florida – Tampa, FL
As one of the few universities in the country that was given a gold rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the campus at USF is at the forefront of green projects. The university created the USF School of Global Sustainability in 2010. A few years later came the introduction of the Patel College of Global Sustainability to implement a number of academic concentrations. This college is housed in a LEED Gold certified building, the first on campus, and has programs for research, scholarship and teaching. For nearly a decade, the university has also been committed to reducing its carbon footprint through several initiatives, including electric car charging stations, recycling efforts and solar power.
4) University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh – Oshkosh, WI
For prospective students looking for serious sustainability efforts at their college, UW Oshkosh has a lot to offer. Since 2005, the school has implemented many green building projects, including the recent Horizon Village residence hall, which includes both geothermal and solar energy technologies. Another building, Sage Hall, uses half the energy of similar buildings on campus. Also, the first “commercial-scale dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester in the Americas,” produces 10% of the campus’s electricity and heat. The university also has the distinction of being the second largest purchaser of renewable energy in the state.
5) Unity College – Unity, ME
Considering itself “America’s Environmental College,” Unity fully embraces sustainability throughout the institution, from academics to student life and beyond. Though it is a small liberal arts college, it distinguishes itself by approaching all academics through the lens of the environment and natural resources. The core of all undergraduate degrees is the Environmental Citizen Curriculum, which stresses the connections between the broad fields within environmental studies and prepares students for potential careers in sustainability. The campus is committed to making itself climate neutral through a number of efforts, including divesting from fossil fuels and building the first super-efficient “passive house” student residence in the country.
6) Stanford University – Palo Alto, CA
Putting nearly as much energy into sustainability as its rigorous academics, Stanford is at the national forefront of becoming a green university. The school’s Energy System Innovations project has reportedly helped save 18% of potable water on campus and reduced campus emissions 68% below peak levels over the past several years. The university has many academic programs that aim to study environmentalism and energy, like the Precourt Institute for Energy and the Global Climate & Energy Project. On a more local level, the Cardinal Green portal helps connect community members to small-scale campaigns, like recycling and carpooling, to reduce waste every day.
7) University of Alaska, Fairbanks – Fairbanks, AK
After several years of planning, UAF established the Office of Sustainability in 2010 to help implement a wide variety of projects on campus. Funded by student fees and managed by a board devoted to green issues on campus, the school’s sustainability efforts include energy, recycling, bicycling, gardening and general education. The school’s Sustainable Village offers housing for students who want to experiment with community living, growing their own food and monitoring their carbon footprint. On the more academic side, the Community Forest Education Program lets students study the ecology and forested landscape surrounding the university.
8) Arizona State University – Tuscon, AZ
Taking full advantage of its sunny desert climate, as of 2013, ASU was the only institution of higher education in the country to generate over 24 megawatts from solar arrays. On top of that, the university’s School of Sustainability, established in 2007, was the first school in the United States to explore the principles of sustainability. The university has implemented a rigorous sustainability plan, which includes a large recycling and composting operation that has reduced solid waste on campus by 90%. There are also many courses, events, groups and lectures that help spread ideas related to sustainability among students.
9) Oregon State University – Corvallis, OR
One of the preeminent land-grant universities in the country, Oregon State is making great efforts towards becoming a green institution. The school’s Sustainability Office is devoted to implementing renewable energy strategies on campus, as well as large-scale transportation and recycling projects. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) recently gave the school a gold rating, acknowledging the campus dining Eco2Go container system and the school-wide plan to reduce greenhouse emissions. The school frequently makes these green efforts fun by creating big contests out of student recycling efforts and the regular use of refillable coffee mugs.
10) Santa Clara University – Santa Clara, CA
With its first green building on campus constructed over a decade ago, Santa Clara is relatively ahead of the curve on its serious sustainability efforts. In 2013, the university established the Center for Sustainability, which hosts a variety of events and implements numerous green initiatives. The school is also a member of the Green Building Council, which oversees the LEED rating system, and many of the newer buildings on campus follow those strict sustainability guidelines. There have been campus-wide efforts at SCU towards water conservation, renewable energy and climate neutrality, as well as a recently introduced Sustainability Minor for students who wish to integrate these issues into their studies.
11) SUNY Cortland – Cortland, NY
Wanting to make an impact on climate change and the school’s institutional carbon footprint, SUNY Cortland has implemented a number of projects toward sustainability. The university is the first of the 64 campuses in the State University of New York system to use 100 percent renewable electric energy. It aspires to follow LEED sustainability standards in all of its new building projects and also offers outdoor programs for students to enjoy the wider environment around campus. In the realm of transportation, the school has a community bike program for students to use and encourages the use of electric vehicles for commuters.
12) Emory University – Atlanta, GA
One of the most prestigious universities in the South, Emory also happens to be one of the most forward thinking in regards to sustainability issues. Among all of the campuses in the U.S., Emory has one of the largest square footage inventories of LEED-certified buildings. The school is aiming to get three-quarters of its dining hall food from local organic sources and recycle 65 percent of the waste on campus. Emory is also remarkably green in another way: the Arbor Day Foundation named the school a Tree Campus USA school for its amount of tree-lined open space.
13) Florida Gulf Coast University – Fort Myers, FL
Inspired by Rachel Carson’s landmark work of environmentalism, FGCU founded its Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education on campus to help implement projects in the field. The Center helps connect students with sustainability-oriented academic programs and the surrounding local community with issues in the nearby Western Everglades and Barrier Islands. A 15-acre solar field on campus provides around 85 percent of the energy for many of its buildings. The school has 400 acres on campus set aside for environmental preservation and has built a number of man-made lakes for local wildlife.
14) Portland State University – Portland, OR
In a region that prides itself on a variety of sustainability issues, PSU works hard to meet the challenge of making itself fully green. The school’s Institute for Sustainability Solutions is focused on investigating four areas: sustainable urban communities, the integration of human societies and the natural environment, implementing sustainability and measuring sustainability. Several newer buildings on campus are LEED-certified, two of which have Platinum rankings, and many renovated buildings are being brought to meet LEED certification as well. As far as transportation, the school is recognized for its emphasis on local mass transit and it was recently ranked as one of the most bike friendly universities in the country.
15) Pacific Lutheran University – Parkland, WA
With a certification in environmental studies introduced in the 1970s and a major in the field established in the 1990s, PLU has a very long track record in sustainability. Two buildings on campus have been awarded Gold LEED ratings and the school has a goal of making sure all renovations meet those strict green building standards as well. PLU has a substantial campus-wide climate action plan, which includes becoming fully carbon neutral by 2020. The school also has many student-led green programs, including a community garden, a bike co-op and a habitat restoration group.
16) The George Washington University – Washington, D.C.
Though it’s set in the urban environment of the nation’s capital, GWU is deeply committed to environmentalism. The university implements three separate strategies that address issues of climate, water and ecosystems on campus and the surrounding region. There are several buildings on campus that meet LEED certification standards and the school is aiming to update many facilities to meet the same standards. GWU also has many programs that implement sustainability through water use, food waste, recycling, transportation and landscaping.
17) Kankakee Community College – Kankakee, IL
This two-year institution in northeastern Illinois takes its sustainability efforts seriously. KCC has signed the American College and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment and is a founding member of the Illinois Green Economy Network, a consortium of community colleges in the state hoping to create sustainable local infrastructures. The school has implemented a number of green energy technologies on campus including wind, solar, and geothermal forms of power generation. The new buildings on campus aspire to meet LEED standards and the HVAC systems follow comprehensive detailed green energy plans.
18) Sterling College – Craftsbury, VT
As an institution, Sterling fully embodies the ethos of sustainability. From the curriculum, which is geared towards the many facets of environmentalism, to the campus life, which integrates green features everywhere, Sterling makes real efforts to reduce its footprint. The dining halls are frequently applauded for their work to achieve real sustainability: students grow twenty percent of the food served on campus and much of the rest comes from area farms. The school follows an Environmental Stewardship model of academics, which emphasizes studying the role that humans play in the natural world and how we can better prepare ourselves for the future of the planet.
19) Lappeenranta University of Technology – Lappeenranta, Finland
Among the other pioneering programs offered, LUT has a unique master's degree in Sustainability Science and Solutions that lets students explore the wide world of green technology. Responding to climate problems, air quality, water pollution and waste, the program encourages innovative approaches to the most pressing issues in the world. After following courses in core studies, specialization studies and minor studies, students produce a master’s thesis of advanced research within any number of green academic fields. Graduates move on to sustainability careers in government, engineering, research and energy sectors, among others.
20) University of Oregon – Eugene, OR
In both academics and student life, the U of O has a strong focus on everything sustainable. The architecture program, one the most reputable in the country, has an excellent track for Sustainable Design Practice and Principles, and the university also has a popular interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program. There is a campus-wide plan for all new construction to incorporate sustainable features; the Lillis Business Complex, finished in 2003, earned a LEED Silver rating, the highest of any college business school building in the country. The campus also has community gardens, bike co-ops and comprehensive recycling programs, all intended to improve college life for students.
21) University of Colorado – Boulder, CO
In the midst of a beautiful mountain landscape, CU-Boulder has made many important efforts to reduce its institutional carbon footprint. The school’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and increase the campus diversion rate of municipal solid waste by 90%, both by 2020. On the academic side, there is a pioneering environmental engineering program (EVEN), which boasts over 200 students in its ranks. There is also the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), which performs long-term ecological research around the world. Sports fans can be proud that CU is the first zero-waste, net-zero energy and net-zero water, athletics program in the country.
22) Middlebury College – Middlebury, VT
From energy and food to transportation and infrastructure, Middlebury takes pride in all that it does to achieve sustainability. In 2016, Middlebury reached its goal of carbon neutrality, balancing its campus-wide emissions with an equivalent amount offset or sequestered. The campus uses green energy like biomass gasification, biomethane, solar fields and wind power to keep everything running. There is also a student-run community garden and a student-run non-profit that sells fresh food at a discount to the surrounding community.
23) University of Montana – Missoula, MT
According to the school’s Office of Sustainability, UM has many initiatives “to enhance students’ understanding of the interconnectedness of ecological, social, and economic issues.” The university recently met its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and has a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2020. The campus was also the first in the Rocky Mountain region to participate in the STARS sustainability report and earned itself a Silver rating in the process. There are a great number of student groups for the ecologically minded to join, including the Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (FLAT) to Climate Action to Camas, an environmental studies literary magazine.
24) University of Washington – Seattle, WA
With many substantial sustainability efforts underway, UW is ahead of the pack in making a green institution. The school has created a Climate Action Team, an Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee and a number of other working groups to help promote sustainability on campus. After partnering with Seattle City Light’s Green Up Program, the campus has ensured that all of its electricity is purchased from renewable sources; similarly, much of the dining hall’s food comes from local and sustainable sources. There are a number of student groups, from beekeeping to biodiesel to the forest club, that give students many options for exploring extracurricular green projects.
25) University of North Carolina – Greensboro, NC
For many years, UNC Greensboro has been making real efforts at achieving sustainability. Among the school’s accomplishments are drastic reductions in water use and solid waste, an improvement in local transportation and an increase in local foods in the dining hall. The School of Education building was awarded the university’s first LEED Gold certification in 2012 and numerous other buildings on campus have been given LEED awards ever since. For those wanting entertainment with their sustainability, the school has been presenting a Sustainable Film & Discussion series for over a decade, showing a range of educational documentaries to local residents.
26) University of Massachusetts Amherst – Amherst, MA
This rural land-grant university is a pioneer in the region for its work in the fields of sustainability. The school was selected by the federal government to lead a consortium of seven universities to explore new realms within climate science. UMass is one of the few public universities in the country to have an on-campus permaculture garden and the popular agricultural programs teach students sustainable practices at the school’s own farm. The surrounding Pioneer Valley region is remarkably active in all sorts of green matters, with many non-profits and organizations, which students can explore with ease.
27) Cornell University – Ithaca, NY
In addition to its renowned academics, Cornell encourages its students to engage with green issues. The school offers a possible sustainability focus in 70% of its departments and is the only university to offer a minor in climate change. As with many other large institutions, Cornell is aiming to reach climate neutrality within the next two decades through a variety of energy conservation projects. For students who want to experience a different form of green living, the campus has an arboretum, a botanical garden and beautiful surrounding geology.
28) University of New Hampshire – Durham, NH
Home to the Sustainability Institute, one of the oldest endowed sustainability offices in the country, UNH states that green issues are one of its central tenets. Many academic programs offer concentrations in sustainability, like Environmental Sciences and Oceanography, and the university offers an innovative double major in EcoGastronomy. The school makes many efforts to incorporate green energy initiatives on campus, like solar arrays and a cogeneration plant powered by landfill gas. For those wanting to take their sustainability studies abroad, students can join the ExoQuest program in New Zealand or the EcoGastronomy tracks in Italy or France.
29) New York University – New York, NY
Deep in the middle of Manhattan, NYU might be an unlikely place for sustainability to thrive. Yet quick access to public transit, dense infrastructure and an eco-conscious student body give the school a distinct advantage in exploring related issues. NYU has been the largest purchaser of wind energy in the U.S. since 2009 and a student-led bike-sharing program has a fleet of free bikes for students, faculty and staff to use around campus. The university’s Sustainability Task Force awarded $150,000 in grants to projects that would help advance research in energy, food, waste, landscape and other related issues.
30) Macalester College – Saint Paul, MN
Set within the urban Twin Cities environment, Macalester is fully devoted to exploring alternative solutions to a number of pressing issues. The EcoHouse, a midcentury home retrofitted with solar panels and other sustainable features, is a central place on campus where students can explore new energy options. The Environmental Studies major is a popular option for students wanting to incorporate green issues and hands-on education into their academics. Like other institutions of higher education, Macalester aspires to be fully carbon neutral by 2025.
31) Northern Arizona University – Flagstaff, AZ
In its beautiful setting at the base of Flagstaff’s San Francisco mountains, NAU is focused on keeping the natural environment pristine. The School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Stability offers courses in climate science, geology and other fields adjacent to sustainable issues. From efforts like water conservation and favoring digital over paper, the school is doing small things every day that contribute to a larger sense of sustainability. The university also has community environment programs that focus on forming links between social justice and environmentalism.
32) Bard College – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
This rigorous liberal arts college takes sustainability seriously in its academics and its student life. There are many ways that students can incorporate green issues into their studies and many student-led organizations that can help students direct their volunteer energies in positive ways. Many buildings on campus are powered by geothermal energy and the school is only one of the local businesses and organizations working to lower the town’s whole energy consumption. The school’s farm harvested nearly 21,000 pounds of produce and served it to the local community, while the dining hall prides itself on its farm-to-table practices.
33) University of Wyoming – Laramie, WY
This historic land-grant university is constantly making efforts to make its campus greener. The Campus Sustainability Committee advises all of the academic departments and programs on issues related to sustainability while also overseeing the school’s progress in reducing its carbon footprint. All of the new campus buildings are required to meet the rigorous LEED Silver construction standards. There are many student-led groups on campus as well as events, lectures and programs that help bring sustainability to the university community.
34) University of San Diego – La Jolla, CA
Located near a beautiful ocean ecosystem, UCSD has made many strong initiatives to help keep the natural world pristine. The school aims to produce zero waste by 2020, be carbon neutral by 2050 and reach food security for students by 2025. In the realm of research, scientists at the school have been investigating new fuels like algae, biodiesel and compressed natural gas. Engineers at the university have been working on campus water conservation through several innovative strategies as well. Many student groups work toward making a greener future, and local communities can take advantage of the school’s own farmer’s market.
35) University of New Mexico – Albuquerque, NM
Over the past several years, UNM has made many steps toward becoming a more sustainable campus. The school has retrofitted HVAC systems in all of its buildings and new construction on campus must meet LEED status. There is also a Sustainability Studies program that offers a minor degree for undergrads who want to bridge their studies with green issues. The program hosts many events, like the annual Sustainability Expo, as well as lectures and reading groups.
36) University of California Davis – Davis, CA
UC Davis aspires to integrate sustainability throughout its campus. There are twenty LEED-certified buildings around campus, one of which is the Institute for Wine and Food Science, the only food or beverage processing facility in the world to achieve Platinum certification. The school is equally innovative in its work with food: old olive trees on campus are harvested for oil and table olives for dining halls. In residential life, the UC Davis West Village is considered a zero net energy community and the school is part of a joint venture to develop an ecovillage in Dubai.
37) University of Utah – Salt Lake City, UT
One sign that the University of Utah is on the right path with sustainability: the Environmental Protection Agency ranked the University of Utah as third in the country for green power usage among higher education institutions. The campus has a cogeneration power plant, a sustainability office, many green building upgrades and local produce initiatives. On the academic side, the Global Change & Sustainability Center fosters interdisciplinary research about human impacts on the environment. Students working with the center can do ecological fieldwork around Utah and throughout the Southwest.
38) University of Connecticut – Storrs, CT
UConn is making real strides in its environmental work, which was recently deemed a “top green school” by the Sierra Club, the arbiter of everything ecological. The school offers a wide array of classes in topics relating to sustainability and environmentalism. The school’s Environmental Literacy Workgroup develops classes and events for interested students, as well as helping find green careers for graduates. On campus, there is a bike sharing program, a serious water conservation initiative and a dining hall that focuses on local seasonal foods.
39) Loyola University – Chicago, IL
Despite being in the heart of urban Chicago, Loyola is doing noble work in promoting sustainability. The Institute of Environmental Sustainability offers undergraduate degree programs, high-tech research labs and the largest geothermal facility in Chicago. Students can also learn how to make biodiesel and soap in these state-of-the-art resources. Students can also learn about urban agriculture in Loyola’s impressive 3,100-square-foot greenhouse.
40) Dickinson College – Carlisle, PA
Though this small liberal arts college has a modestly sized student body, it is doing truly pioneering work in its green projects. Both the Rector Science Complex, a hub for research-based studies in sustainability, and the college’s Center for Sustainable Living, known as the “Treehouse,” were given a LEED Gold rating. The college buys 100% of its energy from wind farms and also has solar arrays on campus. For students wanting to get their hands dirty, the school also operates an organic farm and gardens.