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Published on August 21st, 2009 | by timhurst


12 Greenest Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Editor’s note: Looking for more updated information on green colleges & universities? Check out this infographic.

In many respects, the modern environmental movement was born in the colleges and universities that dot the American landscape. And that spirit and enthusiasm for green innovation continues to flourish today. But with all of the green claims made by government, the business sector and the mainstream media, it’s quite likely there will be some greenwash spilling from the windows of the the Ivory Tower.

To help us wade through all the green hyperbole, a growing list of sustainability ranking projects has emerged including the Princeton Review Green Honor Roll, the College Sustainability Report Card, and the Sierra Club’s just-released Cool Schools ranking. Each of the guides uses a different methodology but all of were helpful when formulating the following compilation of the top green colleges and universities in the United States.

Recognizing that defining the word ‘green’ can be problematic in its own right and that there are tons of colleges doing really great things in terms of sustainability, this list is certainly incomplete and/or inexact. Think we missed something? Have an example of campus sustainability that needs to be told? Tell the world in the comments section. In alphabetical order:

Bates College (Lewiston, Maine)

In 2005, Bates College signed a five year contract to use 100% renewable electricity (small hydro and biomass) to power its main buildings which account for 94% of the College’s electrical consumption. In the dining hall, 28% of the purchases are locally grown or sustainably harvested and dining services diverts an impressive 80% of its solid waste from the local landfill. Other cool programs at Bates include a ZipCar and bikeshare program.

Images via Regent’s College; dvs

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18 Responses to 12 Greenest Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

  1. Kate says:

    Unity College in Maine, America’s Environmental College has a LEED platinum president’s residence. The Unity House, a Unity2 model built for the president of Unity College, has achieved a LEED platinum rating, making it one of a select group of homes around the country to reach such a lofty goal. It is the only president’s residence of its kind. To read more about the house or Unity College visit

  2. Pat says:

    Can someone please justify University of Colorado, beyond the fact that they started recycling in the 70s? Which, also, many campuses did.

    What have they done in the last ten years to keep them on the leaderboard?

  3. Pingback: Shaping Youth » Back to School: Are Teens REALLY Going Green?

  4. Mike G says:

    U of Wash “buys 100% of their energy from renewable sources, and has a hybrid and electric fleet of over 300 vehicles.”

    Are the hybrid’s biofueled? Does the university have any vehicles that run on anything other than “B100″?
    If the first half of the sentence is true, then the university isn’t using any petroleum products for energy.

  5. Joe says:

    Unity College also purchases 100% of it’s power from renewable sources, provides it’s cafeteria with 100% organic vegetables and greens from it’s own gardens, compostes all food waste and is one of the top ranked schools for recycling. I have to mention this…100% of the programs offered at Unity College are focused on the environemnt. Hmmm….something is fishy here…I wonder how something like this can be overlooked?!

  6. Linwood E says:

    What about Green Mountain College In Poultney VT?

  7. Pingback: 12 Greenest Colleges in America «

  8. bigd0g says:

    What about WPI ( for pioneering green in Worcester, MA?

    “Built over the course of 18 months, East Hall is WPI’s second “green” building; the first being the Bartlett Center, the university’s admissions and financial aid building, which opened in 2006 and was the first university building in Worcester to attain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). East Hall has been registered with the USGBC and is awaiting final LEED certification, which is anticipated to be at the gold level. In 2007, WPI’s Board of Trustees voted to adopt a policy calling for all future buildings on campus to be environmentally friendly and designed to meet LEED-certification.”


  9. Eric says:

    Did you forget about Northeastern University? Just won greenest campus for 2009

  10. Steve says:

    Arizona State University has the the U.S.’s ONLY Official School of Sustainability with degree programs not offered at any other accredited higher-learning establishment and it couldn’t make the list? Clearly, the research for this story was not comprehensive…

  11. Everything humans do has impacts on the physical environment, ie on water, on land and on the air we breathe, on the other living beings, including what to feed us. It is impossible to deal with any subject political, economic, social, cultural without addressing these issues and impacts, and say, to evaluate them, if they are worth it or not. I believe that in today’s world, where the central problems are climate change and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption beyond the capability of reconfiguring the biosphere.

    Commentary by
    Washington Novaes

  12. Edward paul says:

    Very informative article….I am searching for some other universities of U.S. Can you please provide me information about other popular universities?

  13. Mariko says:

    Becoming a sustainable campus is great but we must also develop the technology and policies as well as mentor students to become future leaders. UCLA has 2 programs I wish to highlight. First, I am the Program Coordinator for a fellowship program, “Clean Energy for Green Industry at UCLA”. It is an interdisciplinary program for first year graduate students and is funded by the National Science Foundation. We focus not only on clean green science but also business and policy. Our ultimate goal is that our fellows will become clean energy leaders and mentors, start new businesses, and develop a workforce in the Los Angeles area. Our students also participate in the second program I wanted to mention, “Leaders in Sustainability”, another multi-disciplinary graduate program (a certificate, rather like a graduate minor) which aims to create leaders in sustainability.

  14. Ranking says:

    Sierra Magazine has ranked Carnegie Mellon University in the top 10 of green schools.

  15. In the dining hall, 28% of the purchases are locally grown or sustainably harvested and dining services diverts an impressive 80% of its solid waste from the local landfill. Other cool programs at Bates include a ZipCar and bikeshare program.

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