Top 10 Most Eco-Friendly Colleges

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Climate change is happening, whether you like it or not. But some universities and their students want to slow it down and reduce their carbon footprint on a campus-wide scale. These ten schools make the most of their resources by providing easy access to recycling, using renewable energy, committing to zero waste at events, having great Environmental Science programs and student run Eco-clubs, and holding high standards for environmental sustainability. Take a look at how they do it and take some tips back to your college.

Check out the 10 most eco-friendly schools reducing their carbon footprint every day.

10. University of Pennsylvania

UPenn do not shy away from environmental activism. “So many of the students have a passion for protecting the environment. They are constantly working with the school to make it more green,” UPenn recent grad Rachel Huang said. Students can join over 50 student run eco-clubs including the Student Sustainability Association, an association of clubs that fosters collaboration between the over 17 environmental groups on campus. The SSAP includes clubs like Fossil Free Penn, Penn Beekeeping Club, Engineers Without Borders, Penn Vegan Society. UPenn Outdoors Club and more. Aside from student orgs, UPenn practices great environmental consciousness. Penn Sustainability is a university-wide initiative that promotes and practices sustainability campus wide. That includes teaching students about sustainability in class, designing green spaces on campus, reducing emissions, eating locally and more. UPenn also created “zero waste” initiatives that already helped in divert 90 percent of campus waste away from landfills.

9. University of Vermont

UVM does way more to go green than make it the school sports color. “One of my favorite initiatives at UVM is our Carbon Neutral program run through UVM’s Student Government Committee on the Environment. This program neutralizes all of the carbon emissions for 200+ SGA recognized clubs,” University of Vermont junior Ethan Foley said. UVM goes even more eco-friendly with initiatives like the Green Fund and the Watts in the Wind Project. The Green Fund raises money to go towards campus sustainability projects. University of Vermont also started the Watts in the Wind Project, a wind turbine projected to reduce campus CO2 output by 3500 to 5900 pounds as an estimate. You don’t need to be an eco-friendly expert to help the planet at UVM, though. The Office of Sustainability at UVM trains student leaders to become Eco-Reps to spread the word about environmental responsibility around campus. The Eco-Reps juggle multiple projects like Curb Your Consumerism, Greenride Bike Share and Composting Is Hot. Sounds like someone trying to toot their own-green-campus-horn (but, come on, they deserve it).

8. State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry

This SUNY dedicates itself to eco-friendly studies and practices. The school has over 20 different environmental majors and tracks including wildlife science, forest health, landscape architecture, conservation biology, forestry and environmental science. The school also offers a Sustainable Energy Management program to students so they can learn about different types of energy and renewable energy. SUNY ESF’s dedication to teaching environmental sustainability goes way beyond the class room. The school built a wind turbine to power its remote classrooms in Heiberg Forest, a remote research forest located in NY.  SUNY ESF also grew a shrub willow, a short rotation woody crop that produces large amounts of renewable biomass. SUNY ESF students will go out and save the world before the rest of our carbon footprints can damage it.

7. American University

American University’s eco-friendly campus structures lead the way for students to keep going green. Renewable energy resources on AU’s campus include six LEED certified buildings, seven solar panel sites on campus and carbon offsets that reduce environmental emissions. The university’s power comes from 100 percent renewable sources and has used 21 percent less electricity used per square foot since 2005. And the students care just as much about taking responsibility of their environment. The New York Times featured two of the university’s students, Sergio Morales and Jennah McDonald, for delivering good news on the corals in Phoenix Islands Protected Area (still healthy and thriving). American also started initiatives to engage the student body. “I’m a fan of the environmental actions headed by the divestment group on campus, Fossil Free AU.  The group advocates for AU to divest from fossil fuel corporations by holding rallies, protesting events and more,” American University senior Gracie Brett said. Washington, D.C.: land of the fossil free and home of the brave.

6. Appalachian State University

Appalachian State hosts the largest and most diverse renewable energy facilities in North Carolina. The Sustainability Council, made up of students and faculty, creates and executes the vision of sustainability on campus. App State promotes initiatives like using MAMAC products in their school buildings. MAMAC, a company that develops sensors and control peripherals, displays the energy used in the Walker College to make students more aware of their impact. The school also entered into the American College and University’ Presidents Climate Commitment in 2009 which accepts schools that show a strong investment in fossil fuels. And of course it fosters environmental activism through its eco clubs, such as Sustainable Development Alliance, which helps promote education of sustainability around campus, and Students for New Urbanism, which focuses on creating sustainability in urban communities. Rounding it out, App State uses STARS (sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system) which self reports and tracks the college’s sustainability, holding everyone accountable.

5. Loyola University Chicago

Zero waste biodiesel production process since 2007, rainwater utilization and multipurpose soap: What do all of these things have in common? The answer: Loyola University Chicago. “Often our students lead the way in environmental activism. They have led successful campaigns to ban water bottles on campus (2012), eliminated the use of plastics bags (2014) [and recently] have had the administration take a stand in support of a price on carbon (2017),” Director of Sustainability Aaron Durnbaugh said. Students also create clubs such as the Student Environmental Alliance, which dedicates itself to protecting and sustaining the environment through education. The student-run Growers Guild promotes sustainability initiatives on campus by introducing the community to urban agriculture through gardening. The school also offers six majors within its Environmental Department: Environmental Science, Environment Policy, Environmental Public Health, Environmental Studies, Conservation and Restoration Ecology and Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture.

4. Pomona College

Pomona College in Claremont goes to great lengths to promote environmentalism on its campus. “In my own work, the college supported my efforts to advocate for energy efficiency upgrades in the residential community…I believe Pomona College is a leader in this field,” Pomona College recent grad Tom Erb said. The school practices this energy efficiency in a number of ways, like utilizing day-lights and strategically-placed windows to reduce the use of electricity. The school also installed on-campus solar PV—an energy system that uses photovoltaics to transform sunlight into energy. Pomona also has two on-campus solar thermal water heaters. Students can get involved through the ReCoop Club. As a student run waste diversion club, it promotes the use of reusable materials and attempts to move the college towards zero waste. In the classroom, Pomona offers well-established eco-friendly majors. The Environmental Analysis Program takes an interdisciplinary stance on addressing environmental problems. Seniors within the Environmental studies can take a Senior Seminar through which they work with real world clients solving real world issues.

3. Dickinson College

Dickinson students definitely take the mantra “small but powerful” to heart. “Being a small size means that more people’s opinions are actually heard, so instead of just being ‘environmentally friendly,’ we look at sustainability through many different lenses,” Dickinson recent grad Olivia Bailey said. Dickinson practices this sustainability by diverting one-fourth of its waste (150 tons) away from landfills, purchasing paper made of 30 percent recycled materials and participating in the U-Turn Sale at the end of the year, giving up over $15,000 worth of unwanted furniture and clothes. But the school doesn’t stop there.  “My favorite sustainability initiative at Dickinson is the Dickinson College Farm,” Dickinson junior Paige Baisley said. The 50-acre farm earned its USDA certification and operates as both a completely organic food source and a live laboratory where students get hands on experience. “[They also participate in] green infrastructure like LEED certified buildings, solar power and a bike friendly campus,” Dickinson senior Emma Weaver said. The school looks to involve the student body through its clubs. Eco-Reps promote sustainability in their community through education, outreach and programming. The Treehouse has the same M.O. but uses fun programs such as open mics and food nights to help bring students to action. Small but powerful, indeed.

2. University of California Davis

Sun, surf, sustainability: UC Davis has it all. “I absolutely think UC Davis puts environmental sustainability at the forefront of our goals as an institution and when concerning modernizing infrastructure,” UC Davis junior Roselyn Paratore said. Between 2007 and 2010 UC Davis reduced lighting energy by 10 percent. In 2011, UC Davis completed a solar panel operation on its West Village. A year after completion as the largest planned zero net energy community, the West Village will soon produce as much energy as it consumes. Students can get involved on with environmental activism on campus through multiple clubs—such as Sustainable Resource Operations Club, the California Student Sustainability Coalition—and majors—like Environmental Policy and Environmental Science and Management. “My favorite UCD initiative to help students be more environmentally conscious is our Waste Reduction and Recycling program—actually, the entire UCD system has planned to go Zero Waste by 2020,” UC Davis senior Kristin Hogue said. Campus eateries participate in composting pre-consumer kitchen waste, recycling landscaping waste for mulch to reduce green waste and using the Recycling services for diversion campaigns on campus. Sure, they have an overwhelming amount of initiatives, but finding yourself buried in info proves better than finding yourself buried in waste.

1. Colby College

Strap in for a long list of environmental practices brought to you by the members of Colby College. First, they offer RESCUE: Recycle Everything, Save Colby’s Usable Excess. Colby started this initiative during the 2001-2002 school year encouraging students to recycle things like clothes and furniture they leave behind at the end of the year. Second, Colby’s recycling and composting has been recognized nationally. Third, the school exhibits award winning Green Power Practices. In 2003 Colby moved to 100 percent renewable energy sources, it finished first in EPA’s green power championships in the years 2007 to 2008 and 2008 to 2010 and Colby’s biomass boiler offsets oil (and will handle 90 percent of the steam demand on campus). Fourth, in 2011 Colby held its fourth Green Graduation, reducing waste from used energy and excess landfill materials. Fifth, the student’s exhibit a strong passion for activism. “I was especially impressed by the culture of environmental awareness with the student body at Colby, and feel that this is the most important aspect of being an environmentally friendly school,” Colby sophomore Will Seivwright said. And finally, no school claiming fame through standards of environmentalism can get by without stellar majors. Colby offers an Environmental Studies major through which students can access the Environmental Advisory group—a group that advises the campus president. Did you get all that?

Brooke is a sophomore at William and Mary studying English. She enjoys reading and writing, very strong coffee, and all things chocolate.

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