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Top 10 Most Environmentally Friendly Colleges

From mountains to forests to beaches, our planet can be a pretty beautiful place. In order to keep it that way, many people, but especially younger generations, are conscious of their environmental footprint. People are looking for ways to be more sustainable. That’s why we’ve broken down the top environmentally friendly colleges. We also included the innovative programs that help make these college communities greener places. 

How we created this list

All of the colleges were selected from our “top colleges” list, which considers graduate income, student debt, and completion rates. For the overall environmentally friendly list, we cross referenced our top schools with the Princeton Review’s “Top 50 Green Colleges” list, which takes into account school recorded data and student opinion. Then, for our top colleges using sustainable energy list, we cross referenced our top schools with the EPA’s Power Partners, which reports the amount of green power their partners use each quarter. 

Top Overall Environmentally Friendly

Colby College

Colby College, located in Waterville, Maine, was one of the first educational institutions in the country to achieve carbon neutrality in 2013. But Colby’s sustainability efforts didn’t start here; students, faculty and staff have been involved in Colby’s Environmental Advisory Group since 2000. This group evaluates existing sustainable efforts on campus as well as suggesting new ones. Some of the ongoing sustainable initiatives include sustainable dining, water conservation, and of course, Colby’s forward thinking academic programs. 

New York University

You may not think of New York City as the most green city in the U.S., but New York University has an office entirely dedicated to sustainability. Some of their efforts include actively working towards carbon neutrality, having plant based meal options at all school sponsored events, and promoting sustainable learning programs. NYU even has grants available for sustainable projects and ideas called Green Grants

Dickinson College

Dickinson College has many opportunities for students to get involved with sustainability on campus. Located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, students can get involved in Dickinson’s Center for Sustainability Education. Here, students can learn more about sustainability through their curriculum and research, co curricular activities, and civic engagement. Other neat things students can be part of include Dickinson’s student-run organic farm and their alliance for aquatic resource monitoring.  

Emory University

All students at Emory University are encouraged to get more involved with sustainability, and in turn, Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives reports that 46% of students implement more sustainable practices since going to Emory. As a method of transparency, they even published an entire action plan to make Emory more environmentally sustainable in 2023. 

UC – Irvine

The University of California – Irvine has widespread policies in place to ensure sustainable practices at the institution. Their sustainability resource center hosts events, sends out a weekly newsletter, and updates their opportunity database for students seeking environmental internships or jobs. 

UC – Merced

The University of California – Merced isn’t just aiming for net zero emissions, they are trying to achieve triple net zero, meaning their goal is to produce as much energy as they use, have zero landfill waste, and achieve climate neutrality. Some of the current projects in progress at UC Merced include composting, building natural trails, and decarbonizing their energy sources.  

Williams College

Williams College, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, protects its natural environment around campus through its sustainability office called the “Zilkha Center.” Their key areas of focus include renewable energy, food production, waste management, sustainable transportation, environmentally friendly infrastructure, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville Tennessee, has implemented plans in order to be carbon neutral by 2050. One of their programs, called the Future VU Sustainability Leaders Program, gives students the resources to provide education about sustainability through hosting outreach events and competitions in their community to support new initiatives like paper reduction and sustainable transportation on campus. 

Amherst College

Amherst College, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, takes accountability for not taking sustainability as seriously as they should have in the past. They first started their Office of Sustainability in 2014, but have since re envisioned and then relaunched their sustainability practices in 2022. Now, sustainability is not only considered in environmental science courses, but also in courses like sociology and studio art. 

University of Connecticut 

At the University of Connecticut, their office of sustainability supports multiple sectors of environmental practices around campus, including infrastructure, student outreach and awareness programs. Some of their goals include reaching carbon neutrality by 2030, using geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings, and funding other creative projects through their Environmental and Social Sustainability Small Grants.  

Top Schools Using Sustainable Energy

The Environmental Protection Agency partners with educational institutions, both private and public, in order to provide credible data of green power outputs. As of January 23, 2024, the EPA’s top 30 colleges and universities have generated and used 4.1 billion kilowatt hours of sustainable energy. That amount of energy is more than what 350,000 American homes will use in a year. Out of those 30, here’s our list of top schools listed from most power produced to least: 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Many schools have offices of sustainability where they list goals, achievements, and ways for students to get involved on campus 
  • As “sustainability” can be considered a buzzword, it’s important to look into higher education institutions to see which ones hold themselves accountable for their sustainability efforts
  • Many schools, both private and public, have great environmentally friendly practices, so there are plenty of options when it comes to finding the right school for you!
  • Even if your school does not have many active initiatives, many offer project grants for environmentally friendly ideas so students can start their own initiatives and make a difference in their community
Key Takeaways

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