8 of the Most Environmentally Friendly Colleges

8 of the Most Environmentally Friendly Colleges

Written by: Ellyn Howard and Pavita Singh

Being environmentally friendly is something we see people, businesses, and communities all taking on more and more everyday. Environmental friendliness involves making an effort to have less of a negative impact on the environment, whether it be through driving an electric vehicle, bringing your own bags for grocery shopping, composting, or using a reusable water bottle. these are all efforts to positively affect the earth. If environmental consciousness is important to you and you want to make it part of your collegiate future, then check out these 8 environmentally friendly colleges and learn how you can get involved at each.

1. Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT

Sustainability site: http://www.greenmtn.edu/sustainability/

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Trek your own trash

Green Mountain College is paving way for other universities to follow suit. In the school’s mission statement, it makes clear the importance of environmental responsibility and sustainable societies. With the earth in mind, the school has developed a biomass facility that generates 85% of the heat used on campus by burning local forest wood chips. If you make it to the schools Cerridwen Farm, you will find horses plowing the fields instead of tractors. Green Mountain’s Sustainability 2020 goal is to be not just net zero but net positive by the year 2020. Some of the creative and fun green events students get involved in on campus include Earth Fair, which brings events and exhibitors to the local high school, Transportation Fair, which is kicked off with a mini bike race, Trek-ur-trash, where you carry all the trash you’ve produced around for a week before weighing in, and Do it in the Dark, a competition between dorms to see who can use the least amount of electricity. Every student who attends Green Mountain will go through the Environmental Liberal Arts (ELA) program, a 37-credit program with coursework in critical thinking, writing, and analysis centered around social and ecological sustainability. Some of the majors you can obtain here are Renewable Energy and EcoDesign (REED), Wilderness and Outdoor Therapy and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production.

2. University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Sustainability site: http://www.sustainability.ucsb.edu

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Help your neighbors

At UCSB, everyone from staff and faculty to students is held responsible for their footprint. This beautiful campus surrounded by the ocean makes it hard to resist jumping into the green movement. At UCSB, you will find The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), which was developed and voted on by the students. TGIF works to directly reduce the university’s impact on the environment and all it takes from the students is $3.47 per quarter to reach $170,000 in donations to the fund. Another fund created and paid for by the students on this campus is The Coastal Fund. This organization works to preserve and benefit the local coastal habitats while giving the students the opportunity to get involved hands on with their local community. On campus more than 94% of students use alternative transportation methods, which is easy with over 10 miles of bike paths, 10,000 (and growing) bike spots, and free/reduced transit passes for students and faculty. In regards to academics, UCSB is home to the first-ever and largest undergraduate environmental studies program in the U.S.

3. Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA

Sustainability site: http://www.evergreen.edu/sustainability

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Grow at the Organic Farm

Evergreen State College is surrounded by large evergreen trees, making up the woods and trails leading to the beach on Puget Sound. One of this campus’ prides and joys is its Organic Farm, which can be easily reached by trails from the main campus, or easily enjoyed by simply going to the campus cafeteria or farm stand. On this farm, you will find a farmhouse built by previous students where there are now flourishing opportunities to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs and work with chickens and sheep! You will also find community gardens open to students at both the Farm and residence halls. One of the unique projects this campus offers is Sustainability in Prisons. This program emphasizes the impact and importance of sustainable practices for everyone. A few of the many environmental-based courses you can take are Advocating for a Sustainable Future, Practice of Organic Farming, Tiny Homes, Yoga/Sustainability, and Writing from the Wilderness.

4. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT

Sustainability site: http://www.middlebury.edu/sustainability

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Work with top environmentalists

The first thing you’ll likely see when checking out Middlebury College’s efforts in sustainability is its significant accomplishment of obtaining a net zero carbon footprint. This campus has successfully become carbon neutral as of 2016. Some of the efforts this campus puts forth to make this possible are their campus recycling and composting operations, partnerships with sustainable vendors, and building requirements. As a student here, you can get involved in campus action, community-involved action, and education for a greener world. A couple of the environmental student groups include Eat Real, which organized Veguary to get students to commit to eating less meat for a week and Campus Sustainability Coordinators, which encourages and educates about green living habits in dorms and on campus. The environmental majors offered at Middlebury include Conservation Biology, Conservation Psychology, Environmental Policy, Environmental Writing, and Architecture and the Environment. While pursuing any of these degrees, you are also presented the opportunity to be a part of the School of the Environment program, a six-week hands-on environmental leadership training program with top environmentalists.

5. Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Sustainability site: https://sustainable.stanford.edu

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Gain hands-on experience

Stanford University is home to the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, which is the campus hub for environmental research. The efforts at this university can be seen through academics, dining halls, transportation methods, waste management, architecture, and more. Stanford’s goal is to reach 70% landfill diversion by 2020. They are working towards this goal by implementing programs throughout student housing and getting volunteers to sort the waste to be disposed of properly. The Residential & Dining Enterprises (RD&E) effort provides food and housing for students and family dependents and hosts numerous conference visitors each year to provide environmental education. Some of the environmental groups students can be a part of include the Sustainable Food Program, the Sustainable Living Program, the Solar and Wind Energy Project, the Solar Car Project, Solar Decathlon, Grid Alternative, Project on Hunger, and Green Store. Additionally, the university offers the Sustainable Stanford Internship Program. This program includes nearly 20 different positions that allow students to manage a sustainability project and gain hands-on experience in the field, knowledge of project management and implementation, and career and networking opportunities.

6. University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO


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Be a “Zero Waste Goalie”

CU Boulder is a longtime leader when it comes to environmentally friendly universities. This campus was the first to establish a recycling program for its students and is home to the largest student-led environmental organization: the CU Environmental Center. Zero-waste events are plentiful here. Students can be “Zero Waste Goalies,” helping people properly sort and dispose of their trash at sporting events. Global Jam is a zero-waste picnic where there are no trash cans. Some of the unique environmental academic specializations you can find here include air quality, developing communities, environmental remediation, and water resource management and treatment.

7. Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR

Sustainability site: https://www.lclark.edu/about/sustainability/

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Join the Beekeeping Club

Located on 137 acres of beautiful, wooded greenery, Lewis and Clark College makes a great effort in getting its students involved in sustainable efforts not only on campus, but also in the community and internationally. The three larger departments focused on environmental studies here are the Environmental Studies Major, which explores environmental problems and solutions in a scholarly context; the Ecopsychology in Counseling Certificate, which explores how counseling psychologists can contribute to sustainability through mental health; and the highly regarded Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. While pursuing your major of choice, you can opt to take your sustainability studies abroad in one of the many destinations offered. For example, many students study environmental issues in India and tropical ecology in Africa. On campus, you can join the Beekeeping Club, the Bike Co-Op, the Garden Collective, and College Outdoors. Other notable initiatives include the Renewable Energy Fee Fund, which awards grants to student projects supporting renewable energy; a partnership with Bon Appetite to source ingredients locally and involve students in the community garden to source food for the cafeterias; and alternative transportation benefits, including free shuttles to downtown Portland, discounted carpool passes and carpool matching, and an on-campus bike co-op to repair bikes for free.

8. Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Sustainability site: https://sustainability.asu.edu

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Solar systems and wind turbines at work

Home to one of the largest distributed solar systems and buildings with rooftop wind turbines, Arizona State University is making big environmental moves on and off campus by focusing on four goals: climate neutrality, zero solid and water waste, active engagement, and principled practice. You will find here the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, which is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives and the first of its kind in the U.S. to offer a transdisciplinary degree program focusing on social, economic, and environmental challenges. Areas of study include future scenarios and systems thinking, climate change and adaptation, environmental design, urban and environmental planning, water quality, ecosystem alteration, and sustainable engineering. Students living on campus can take part in the Green Certification Programs, allowing them to earn certifications for implementing sustainable practices and environmentally friendly events. Professors who incorporate sustainable practices into their curriculum are also eligible for certifications. The Global Sustainability Studies Program at ASU encourages studying abroad, whether it be urban development in Hong Kong, environmental challenges in Trinidad, sustainability policy in London, or any of the many other study abroad options. Some sustainability-related clubs include Campus Student Sustainability Initiatives, Generation Zero, Students for Safe Water, Sustainable Energy Solutions, and Real Food ASU.

If any of these colleges interest to you or you want to learn more about environmentalism and the actions you can take, then check out Konversai. Konversai is a knowledge-sharing platform enabling conversations about any topic via live video. You can talk to anyone, anywhere about anything and use the platform to share, earn, and learn. You can talk to students and alumni who have attended these schools or talk to environmentalists about getting involved in the green future. Joining Konversai is a first step towards making the world better for ourselves and for others. Join Konversai today and become part of that movement.

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  1. “The 39 Greenest Universities of 2016.” Best Colleges. N.p., Feb. 2017. Web. Mar. 2017.
  2. “Guide to 361 Green Colleges: 2016 Edition Press Release.” The Princeton Review. N.p., 2017. Web. Mar. 2017.
  3. Andrews, Avital. “America’s Greenest Colleges: The Top 10.” Sierra Club. N.p., Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
  4. Kern, Rebecca. “10 Eco-Friendly College Campuses.” U.S. News. N.p., June 2010. Web. Mar. 2017.
  5. Additionally, all university’s sustainability sites listed.



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