Normally speaking, lists that rank “top colleges” base their criteria on academic-related factors such as quality of education and graduation rates.
The Princeton Review, a college admission services company, does things a little differently. They rank schools based on “superb sustainability practices, a strong foundation in sustainability education, and a healthy quality of life for students on campus.” Their list is also based on student opinion which is collected from institutional and student surveys.
They give schools what they call a “green rating” better known as bragging rights for being an environmentally aware and prepared institution. The rating is on a scale of 60–99. They then recognize these schools in their annual ranking of the most eco-friendly colleges in America which range from Ivy Leagues to small, private schools in which they all share one thing in common: their love for the planet.
In consultation with ecoAmerica, a research- and partnership-based environmental nonprofit, questions are created to complete the comprehensive ranking system, questions such as:
- What is the percentage of food expenditures that goes toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food?
- Does the school offer programs including mass transit programs, bike sharing, facilities for bicyclists, bicycle and pedestrian plans, car sharing, a carpool discount, carpool/vanpool matching, cash-out of parking, prohibiting idling, local housing, telecommuting, and a condensed workweek?
- Does the school have a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus?
- What percentage of the school’s energy consumption is derived from renewable resources?
- Do the school’s students graduate from programs that include sustainability as a required learning outcome or include multiple sustainability learning outcomes?
At the top of the list for the most eco-friendly college is College of the Atlantic located in Bar Harbor, Maine with a green rating of 99. This college’s number one goal is to eventually become a fossil fuel-free campus. One of the students from this college said, “We are constantly thinking about the latest environmental/social justice issues and thoughtful debates about these subjects happen at every meal.” With a formal sustainable committee, sustainability-focused degrees available, and 30 percent of the food budget being spent on local/organic food, there’s no wonder why this college takes the number one spot.
Appropriately named in the number two spot is the State University of New York: College of Environmental Science and Forestry. This college is focused on building a sustainable future through research and degrees in the environmental sciences, engineering, and design and management. In third place, again appropriately named is Green Mountain College. The campus has wind turbines and solar panels to generate energy, along with other forms of preserving energy.
Other schools on the list include Colorado State University (#4), Stanford University (#11), Conell University (#15), Portland State University (#20), and Bentley University (#35).
Did your school make the list? You can view the full list of the top 50 eco-friendly colleges in the country here.