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Green U: Six Eco-Friendly Schools That Get It

Some universities out there are doing their best to make the world a greener place. Some universities out there are doing their best to make the world a greener place.


Each year, the Princeton Review publishes their list of what they deem to be the greenest colleges and universities in the US, and this year 16 of those schools received a "green rating" of 99, the highest score possible. Schools may be considered "green" for a variety of reasons, from offering a large assortment of sustainability-focused majors or research opportunities to structural improvements like solar panels and compostable toilets that raise efficiency and lower emissions. For our readers who are interested in "green collar" jobs and conservation movements, we have carefully examined the 16 top-ranked schools and picked the six that we really believe to be setting the bar for sustainability in US colleges and universities.

Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)

Not only is ASU President Michael Crow co-chair of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, they have also opened a School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the country, which offers degrees in a variety of eco-friendly fields. This school boasts 60 faculty members that represent more than 40 disciplines, eager to assist budding minds in their pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees in green fields.

To keep the school's emissions low and save energy, ASU has installed the largest collection of solar panels on any single American college campus, and is leading the pack among large universities with its variety of eco-friendly student programs. With green incentives for students like discounted bus and light rail passes, a carpool and car-sharing program with special parking privileges, and a student-run bicycle co-op that both repairs bicycles and loans them out for free, there is no question why Arizona State University made this list.

College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME)

With only one major, Human Ecology, the College of the Atlantic epitomizes a green school. All students have the same official major, but tailor their educational experience to meet the exact concentration they desire, providing it focuses on the way humans interact with our environment. Carbon-neutral since 2007, the school's electricity comes entirely from hydropower, and new buildings on campus are heated using renewable wood pellets.

Their on-campus growing collective, called Beech Hill Farm, is an organic farm that is partially powered by a student-built wind turbine. In addition to supplying produce to the school's kitchens, they also donate to local schools and food banks.

For waste disposal, not only do they have recycling bins in all offices and classrooms, and composting bins in all kitchens, they are also installing composting toilets in all new buildings.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

One of the few urban campuses to be recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, Georgia Tech also offers more than 100 classes that feature significant sustainability themes. Their buildings utilize environmentally- friendly hand soap, paper products, cleaning equipment and other supplies, and the school requires that all vendors on campus provide green products as well.

Their dining hall has utilized an innovative trayless system to save water, and in addition to their normal recycling program, they organized a massive recycling effort on their inaugural game day that collected 12 tons of aluminum, plastic and glass from the stadium.

Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

Northeastern University was one of the first US universities to embrace energy efficiency and conservation as a part of their facilities’ planning and curriculum. Since the 1980s, they have grown their focus on sustainability to include 100 academic courses and to represent one of the school's three major research areas. Their 20-year-old recycling program now includes 15 different categories of collected items, including construction and demolition materials.

A recent campus-wide installation of 70 thousand low-drain T8 fluorescent lights has reduced their annual carbon emissions by 686 tons, showing everyone how easily we can save energy just by switching to low-wattage bulbs when we can.

Northeastern University is also the first American college or university to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for its main dining facility, which is also a three-star certified green restaurant. A local program, called "Eat Local - Get Closer To Your Food" is available in all dining facilities, offering students, staff and faculty locally grown produce, which is not only tastier and healthier, but greener as well.

Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)

The seventh largest purchaser of renewable energy among US colleges and universities, Oregon State University is also home to a revolutionary recreational facility where they are installing a large solar hot water system and which uses its 22 elliptical machines to help generate power for the building.

After winning a Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA in 2008, Oregon State has gone on to boast a 52 percent waste diversion rate (composting plus recycling) with 73 percent of their total campus electrical use offset by green tags (also known as renewable energy certificates, or RECs) or green tag purchases.

Offering degrees in eco-friendly concentrations like Ecological Engineering, Oregon State also opened the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute to uncover ways to combat the effects of global warming and develop green technologies. Each year, they host a nonprofit career day with participation from local, regional, and national conservation groups.

University of California Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)

The UC Santa Cruz mascot is a banana slug, but the banana slugs behind the doors of this academic institution are green, not yellow. Well-known in the UC system as exceptionally eco-conscious, UCSC is nestled among redwood forests and rolling chaparral, where students use its picturesque location as inspiration for their green musings.

The recipient of several awards for their conservation efforts, including a place on The Sierra Club's Top Ten Coolest Schools List and the EPA's Top Ten Green Power Purchasing Colleges, UCSC is also home to students and faculty who regularly receive awards for their sustainability-focused projects and research.

UCSC boasts a remarkably high waste diversion rate of 70 percent, gets 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and has even opened a Sustainability Office which is charged with building a database of green project ideas submitted by students, staff and faculty to make the campus more eco-friendly. They also offer internships, plan events, and organize sustainability working groups. Add to these the myriad student organizations centered around conservation, and you have one green university.

Think your alma mater belongs on this list? Let us know what your school is doing to help the environment in the comments.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 01:18

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