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Rating America’s Greenest Colleges

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What makes a college sustainable? Does it need scores of rooftop solar panels and LEED-certified buildings or will a PETA-approved cafeteria menu suffice? The Princeton Review waded into that debate by releasing its 2011 Green Rating Honor Roll. Out of 703 schools that submitted environmental information, the Review gave just 18 schools spots on the list. The lucky recipients, which include Yale, Harvard, Northeastern, University of California, Berkeley, and West Virginia University, have three qualities in common: an overall commitment to environmental issues, a sustainability-minded curriculum, and students that are dedicated to all things green.

Beyond those basics, the programs on the list vary widely. Arizona State University at Tempe has the School of Sustainability, the first transdisciplinary sustainability degree program in the U.S. Harvard has 62 building projects working towards LEED
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, along with a 55%
recycling rate. Meanwhile the University of Maine provides free bikes for faculty, staff, and student use.

The Princeton Review’s honor roll is far from the last word on college sustainability. Organizations such as the Sierra Club and GreenReportCard have also chimed in. Some of the ratings overlap–Evergreen State College, UC Berkeley and College of the Atlantic pop up on both the Princeton Review and the Sierra Club’s lists–but many others do not.

Change happens fast on college campuses, of course. Take UC Santa Barbara’s pledge to to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to be carbon neutral by 2050, which was brought about by activist students. So don’t base any big decisions solely on a college’s spot on the Green Rating Honor Roll–next year’s list could look very different.

[Green Rating Honor Roll]

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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