The best green colleges in the US don’t put the environment before the college – they put the college in the environment, helping students, faculty, and the community recognize how the institution and its people fit into the grand scheme of life on Earth. What makes the most eco-friendly colleges special is that they incorporate sustainability and responsibility into every aspect of campus life, from campus-wide policies like energy purchasing and transportation, to everyday student life like making low-waste dining halls and energy-efficient dorms. Making college life green takes work, but it is work that pays off for generations.
Discovering Sustainability Initiatives on College Campuses
Colleges and universities get a lot of criticism for being out of touch with reality – the age-old “ivory tower” stereotype. But in reality, higher education, at its best, is usually far ahead of the curve; not just in new ideas and technologies, but in exploring new ways to live, to work, to move, and to simply exist in the modern world. That’s why the best green colleges in the US are the place to go to see how people can live responsibly today, and what potential there is for living responsibly in the future. Sustainability initiatives on college campuses may be small and localized, or large and widely scalable, but the most sustainable campuses are demonstrating how we can all make an impact.
After all, colleges and universities – especially those with big budgets and large urban and suburban student bodies – have the potential to be vast, real-time experiments in new ways to doing things, whether it’s disposing of waste, generating energy, or designing transportation. Even more importantly, with thousands of young people who are still learning to live, the experience in taking part in large-scale green initiatives at the most eco-friendly colleges can provide a valuable, life-changing experience that shapes how the next generation engages with the environment and each other.
Ranking the Best Green Colleges in the US
Most of the institutions featured in the Best Green Colleges ranking are urban or suburban, metropolitan research universities, but their values – responsibility, oneness with the environment, respect for human impact on the Earth – are values that they share with the best mountain colleges and the best river and lake colleges. The institutions featured in the Best Green Colleges have been selected because of their recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency as the largest green power users among higher education institutions in the Green Power Partnership. While they are lauded for their use of energy, these universities have made sustainability a driving force in their mission.
Like College Consensus’ other featured rankings, the Best Green Colleges in the US ranking puts the ranked universities and colleges in the order of their Consensus Score. By combining a reputation for sustainability and environmental consciousness with a concrete, aggregate score based on a multitude of published rankings and reviews, the College Consensus method assures prospective students that the institutions featured have a perfect combination of environmental responsibility, academic excellence, and student life.
University of Pennsylvania
Founded in 1740 by American Founding Father Ben Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League institution and one of the most prestigious, elite private research universities in the world. From the nation’s first medical school to its first business school, Penn has been one of the most influential pioneers in higher education, and that is just as true when it comes to sustainability. After all, Franklin intended his college to be a haven for modern science and engineering, at a time when most colleges were devoted to Christian theology and the Greek and Roman classics.
It should be no surprise that a university founded by America’s first prominent scientist should be a leader in sustainable technology – especially in energy, considering that Franklin’s experiments created a foundation for harnessing electrical energy. Penn is a member of the Green Power Leadership Club, and has won numerous awards for its institutional commitment to alternative power sources, In fact, Penn has been the largest non-government use of wind power, and operates a massive 12-turbine wind farm in Pennsylvania that is capable of producing 20 MW of power. On the other side, Penn has made energy reduction a significant priority since the turn of the 21st century, lowering its overall energy usage substantially even while the campus and student body have grown steadily. Ben Franklin would be proud.
Northwestern University knows a little something about pioneering – pretty literally. When Northwestern was founded in 1851 in the suburbs of Chicago, the Windy City was still young, one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Intended to serve the Northwest Territory – the region that made up Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and other portions of the Midwest – Northwestern played a major role in building Chicago into one of the nation’s biggest economies. Today, Northwestern is leading in everything from business to engineering, and has earned a reputation for its commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Northwestern is one of the biggest purchasers of renewable energy in the Midwest, getting nearly half its energy from multiple sustainable sources, including wind, biomass, and landfill gas. As part of the EPA Green Power Partnership, Northwestern is also dedicated to public service and education in sustainability, including organizations like the student-run Engineers for a Sustainable World. Northwestern supplements its sustainable energy with its own solar array, and all new construction is designed for low-impact, efficient energy and water usage. For the sake of future generations, Northwestern is bringing together its greatest strengths, from law and business to engineering and medicine, to take on waste and ruin from all angles.
When Georgetown University was founded in 1789, the Industrial Revolution was just around the corner – the first commercial factory in the US would open in 1790. The idea of sustainable energy and environmentalism (led by early conservationists) was still a century away, made necessary by the waste and destruction of that same Industrial Revolution. Yet, Georgetown, which could easily rest on its reputation as the oldest Catholic college in the US and one of the most prestigious private research institutions in the world, is at the forefront of sustainability. While Georgetown might be best known for politics and business, the university has made its mark as a model of environmental responsibility.
There are carbon-neutral schools, and then there is Georgetown. From the time Georgetown joined the EPA Green Power Partnership in 2006, the university vowed to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2020 – and it’s almost there. Most importantly – and most impressively – Georgetown not only purchases rewenable energy certificates to equal its total energy usage; they actually buy 33% more! With this commitment, Georgetown ensures that renewable energy producers are able to stay in business, while also offsetting all of their energy usage and then some. They were also the first college in Washington DC to install solar panels on student housing, reducing their carbon consumption by a magnitude, and have become a model as one of the most sustainable campuses anywhere. Rooted in Catholic values and modern science, Georgetown may be the most responsible institution in Washington DC.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
One of the foremost public research universities in the Midwest is also one of the best green colleges in the US. The University of Wisconsin is as old as the state of Wisconsin itself, founded in 1848 when the territory was admitted to statehood, and through more than a century and a half UW has been fully focused on creating the best life for the people of the Badger State. As a land-grant university, UW has deep roots in agriculture and engineering (the original land-grant mission), and the university has built on that heritage in ways that have made it one of the greenest universities in the US. Over the years, research has included sustainable agriculture and recycled materials, while the university has committed to everyday action.
UW’s Office of Sustainability began in 2010, but has already demonstrated a major impact on campus – in fact, in just a few years UW has reduced their energy consumption by nearly a third (and that’s with Wisconsin winters to endure). The university has also stepped up its usage of renewable energy, accounting for 16% as of 2017, but where UW really shines is in waste reduction, from food waste in dining facilities to sustainable materials in construction. From institutional policy to student-led sustainability initiatives, the University of Wisconsin is on its way to becoming one of the most sustainable campuses in the region.
Carnegie Mellon University
It should be no surprise that one of the nation’s most prestigious STEM-focused universities should also stand among the best green colleges in the US, and to be certain, Carnegie Mellon University has the resources to be a leader. Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon was originally intended to bring modern education to the working class of Pittsburgh, PA, but as a leading private research university, CMU has done much more than that in its century of service – Carnegie Mellon has also been one of the most productive private research institutions in the nation, with Nobel Laureates, Turing Award winners, and internationally influential scientists and scholars.
Carnegie Mellon was also a founding member of the EPA Green Power Partnership, making an early commitment to cutting its energy usage and supporting sustainable energy. From that work, CMU has succeeded in making sure that a full 100% of its energy is purchased from sustainable sources, or offset with the purchase of RECs to support renewable producers. In addition, Carnegie Mellon’s Green Practices Committee has been running since 1999, representing one of the oldest dedicated sustainability initiatives on college campuses, while the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research has been coordinating research and policy since 2004. Altogether, these initiatives make Carnegie Mellon one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation.
Ohio State University-Main Campus
Being one of the three largest universities in the US, with more than 53,000 students, the Ohio State University needs a lot of energy to sustain its student body, construction projects, research, and all of the activities that go on at a major public research institution. With its roots in agriculture and mechanics (as Ohio’s land-grant university, founded in 1870), Ohio State also has a background that makes it a natural candidate to become one of the best green colleges in the US. With one of the largest endowments of any public university, and one of the highest rates of research expenditure in the nation (according to the NSF), OSU is leading transformation and innovation in sustainability.
OSU has made a major commitment to renewable energy through its partnership with an Ohio wind farm, generating nearly a fifth of its energy from wind and accounting for a large portion of the wind farm’s purchasing. But OSU is a leader in green initiatives for college campuses in many other ways, too, including student-led programs like INNOVATE-O-thon, and institutional policies like the Zero Waste Initiative. On a campus with nearly 500 buildings, Ohio State has pledged to cut its energy usage by nearly a quarter in the next decade, using green building and programs like the Green Buckeye Certification, which rewards labs and offices that make a contribution to energy efficiency.
American University is located, of course, in Washington DC, where it stands as one of the highest-ranked private research universities in the nation. Founded in 1893 (though it was not able to admit students until twenty years later), American is, understandably, known for its exceptional programs and research in areas like public policy, administration, and political science; the American University Center for Innovation is particularly recognized as one of the nation’s top entrepreneurship programs. But American has also earned a national reputation as one of the best green college in the US, making environmental consciousness and dedicated initiatives throughout all areas of campus and all levels of student life.
American University is fully dedicated to sustainability: with mass transit running on biodiesel, LEED-certified buildings, and numerous initiatives (such as tree-planting), American has one of the most sustainable campuses in the US. But American is particularly admirable for its commitment to responsible energy usage and production. American has the largest solar energy project in the nation’s capital, while half of its energy comes from a solar installation in North Carolina. With its on-site and off-site sustainable energy, carbon offsets, and RECs, American University’s sustainable energy usage is at an impressive 103%, meaning American makes more renewable energy than it can use.
Syracuse University is one of New York’s oldest and most trusted institutions, founded in 1870 from a split within Genesee College (which dates back to 1831). One of the leading private research universities in a state flush with elite institutions, Syracuse has long been known for its cultural and political influence in New York and around the nation. The university is regularly recognized as a leader in areas like law, business, and public policy, both in teaching and research, and all of those strengths contribute to Syracuse’s status as one of the best green colleges in the US. As one of the most eco-friendly colleges and one of the most sustainable campuses in America, Syracuse is a leader and a model.
Syracuse has regularly been recognized as one of the top renewable energy users in New York and on the East Coast, and one of the largest purchasers of RECs in the nation. In fact, more than a third of Syracuse’s energy comes from sustainable sources, and the university is committed to becoming completely carbon neutral by 2040. Sustainability is also deeply integrated into Syracuse’s curriculum, including majors and minors in areas like energy, food studies, and environmental science. In addition, the Campus as a Lab for Sustainability (CALS) program is one of the nation’s top green initiatives for college campuses, working to make Syracuse one of the most sustainable college campuses in the US.
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma was built near the border of the Oklahoma and Indian Territories, the two regions that would be combined to form the state of Oklahoma. That puts OU dead center of Oklahoma geographically, and also keeps the university at the center of Oklahoma life, culture, and learning. As one of the top-ranked public research universities in the nation, OU has been a recognized leader in areas as varied as meteorology, petroleum engineering, and Native American culture and languages. With an economy deeply rooted in the oil industry, though, OU has also emerged as one of the most sustainable campuses and best green colleges in the US.
With Oklahoma’s wide open plains, wind energy is a natural choice, and the University of Oklahoma has become one of the nation’s top producers of wind energy with the OU Spirit Wind Farm. Since 2013, 100% of OU’s purchased energy comes from wind power, and the Spirit Wind Farm produces not only enough energy for the university’s needs, but for many Oklahoma citizens as well – enough for 25,000 homes. On campus, OU is just as committed, combining sustainable building, water efficiency, and recycling, as well as creating a slew of model green initiatives for college campuses. The University of Oklahoma’s influence among green colleges is great, and only increasing.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Minnesota’s land-grant, public research university is no stranger to innovation; the University of Minnesota has been named a Public Ivy (a public university with the quality of the Ivy League) and regularly ranks as one of the top public research institutions in the world. Founded in 1851, UMN is the state’s oldest university, helping Minnesota’s Twin Cities develop from a rugged frontier to a major metropolitan region. From computer science (such as developing the precursor to hyperlinks) to heart surgery, UMN researchers and scientists have been pioneers in STEM and other fields, building on a heritage of agriculture and engineering.
Another area where UMN has excelled is in energy – in fact, it was at UNM that scientists discovered a way to use hydrogen for renewable fuel. But UMN isn’t just doing research in sustainability; it’s also actively making environmental responsibility central to campus life. The University of Minnesota’s sustainability initiative – titled It All Adds Up – is younger than that of some other colleges and universities, but it is no less ambitious than its peers; in 2009, UMN resolved to become completely carbon neutral by 2050. UMN is one of the highest purchases of renewable energy in the region, and that dedication is only expected to grow as they work toward their 2050 goal. One of the best green colleges in the US, UMN is taking a lead in green initiatives for college campuses.
University of Maryland-College Park
The University of Maryland has been named a Public Ivy and ranks as one of the top public research universities in the US; it’s also the largest university in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, which makes it a force to be reckoned with in nearly every initiative it takes on. UMD is also home to the Beltway’s largest research park, M Square, building on the university’s history of innovation in areas ranging from engineering to political science. Founded in 1851, UMD has been crucial to Washington’s development for well over a century and a half, educating generations of leaders, civil servants, and educators.
Since the creation of the Office of Sustainability in 2007, the University of Maryland has emerged as one of the east coast’s most eco-friendly colleges, reducing its carbon footprint by nearly a third in just over a decade. That change has come as UMD has not only built up a foundation of green initiatives for college campuses that have become standard, but also by incorporating sustainability and environmental responsibility into every aspect of student life and learning. The President’s Energy Initiatives, begun in 2014, are recognized campus-wide. UMD has vowed to make 100% of its energy purchases from renewable sources by 2020, including wind, natural gas, and more than 9000 (and growing) on-campus solar panels.
George Washington University
George Washington University is one of only 5 colleges in the US founded by an act of Congress, giving it a unique mission to represent America’s educational and research needs in every respect. Founded in 1821 in Washington, DC, GWU is one of the most politically connected and influential institutions in the nation, and it uses that influence to innovate and pioneer in everything from medicine and engineering to political science and economics. What George Washington University does is quite likely to be a model across the US, so understandably, GWU has emerged in the 21st century as one of the best green colleges in the US.
Along with neighbor American University, George Washington University is part of the Capital Partners Solar Project, an innovative multi-site project designed to test and demonstrate the potential for solar power in an urban environment. Through this partnership with Duke Energy Renewables, GWU, AU, and the GWU Hospitals generate enough power for nearly 9000 homes, amounting to more than half their energy needs – nearly two-thirds of GWU’s. Beyond the CPSP, George Washington has a wide range of sustainability commitments, including urban farming and organic gardening, LEED-certified building projects, and an interdisciplinary minor in sustainability that can be added to just about any degree program.
University of Missouri-Columbia
One of the foremost public research institutions in the Midwest, the University of Missouri was founded in 1839, making it the first public university west of the Mississippi River – so Mizzou is used to being a pioneer. As a land-grant and space-grant university, Mizzou is steeped in engineering and other STEM disciplines, from its earliest origins in agriculture and mechanics. That foundation has made the University of Missouri a clear frontrunner in sustainability research and initiatives, taking a leading role in Missouri and the Midwest. Through its research and teaching, Missouri has made strides in areas like nuclear power, sustainable agriculture, and natural resources.
The University of Missouri has particularly become a model – not just regionally, but nationally – for renewable energy. Using a variety of sources, including biomass, wind, and solar energy, Mizzou now generates 40% of its energy from renewable sources, and it’s not just from buying energy or RECs. Mizzou is actively creating energy with its own biomass boiler, solar thermal system, solar energy, and a demonstration wind turbine that helps researchers and students alike understand the potential of wind energy. MU has won the System of the Year award twice from the International District Energy Association, so Mizzou’s trailblazing is making one of the most sustainable campuses in America a picture of what the future could hold.
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
Regularly ranked among the best universities in the West and one of the top public research institutions, Oklahoma State University began in 1890 as a land-grant university, focusing on agriculture and mechanical engineering like other land-grant institutions. Throughout the 20th century, OSU made major contributions to the applied sciences with pioneering research in areas like scientific agriculture, veterinary science, and, of course, petroleum. OK State has also been a significant force in environmental science, with projects like the Oklahoma Mesonet, a meteorological observation project that has been used for studying climate change.
The Great Plains, of course, is prime country for sustainable energy, and Oklahoma State has made renewable energy a cornerstone of the university’s life. OSU builds on its land-grant mission to recognize their role as stewards of the environment for Oklahoma and its people, and in the 21st century that means investing in sustainability. At this time, OK State gets nearly three-quarters of its energy from renewable wind power, and that percentage is steadily growing. Sustainability is integrated into every aspect of campus life, using green initiatives for college campuses that range from recycling programs to academic programs and research. One of the best green colleges in the US, OSU is shaping the future of the Sooner State.
Western Washington University
Western Washington University began as a normal school (a teacher-training program) in 1893, and as the small school grew into a large regional university, WWU has never waivered from its deep commitment to public service and community engagement. In fact, it may well be what WWU is best known for – while Western Washington has long been ranked one of the top regional universities in the West (and one of the few public institutions to merit that recognition), the university has really made its name in the region by service. For instance, WWU has historically had one of the highest rates of Peace Corps volunteers, while the university has an uncommonly strong student association, the Associated Students of Western Washington University.
It is because of the activism and motivation of students that Western Washington University has made its name as one of the best green colleges in the US. While most green initiatives for college campuses come from the top down, WWU’s students organized at a grassroots level in 2004 to campaign for renewable energy, and they were heard. They even dug into their own pockets with the Green Energy Fee included in student fees. Today, after many years of development, more than 100% of WWU’s energy comes from the purchase of renewable energy, and sustainability initiatives are woven throughout student life, from mass transit to the environmental justice minor.
Ohio University-Main Campus
Founded in 1804, Ohio University was the first public college in the frontier region then known as the Northwest Territory, and OU has been leading ever since. Over its two centuries of service, OU has helped define the role of the public research university in society, from building a definitive college town in Athens, OH, and one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses, to emerging in the 21st century as one of the best green colleges in the US. While OU has built a national reputation in areas like healthcare, business, and law, it has also become a leader in sustainable technology, with research centers like the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment and the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment.
Ohio University only passed their Sustainability Plan in 2010-2011, and the university has already made a big impact on the industry by buying half their energy from renewable sources. In addition, the university has made a major effort to reduce energy usage and switch to cleaner sources, like substituting coal for natural gas. Student and faculty-led research is growing, from the graduate student in Environmental Science setting up solar panels on The Ridges, to the nation’s largest in-vessel composting system (heated with solar energy). Initiatives big and small are helping to make Ohio University one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation.
University of Vermont
Vermont is, famously, one of the most environmentally conscious states in the union, so the University of Vermont’s status as one of the best green colleges in the US is a foregone conclusion. Vermont’s only land-grant, public research university, UVM is also one of the oldest colleges in the US, dating back to 1791, and with a history of more than two centuries, UVM has seen it all. The University of Vermont began incorporating sustainability into its campus policies and curriculum well before many other colleges, and is known for unique programs like Sustainable Entrepreneurship in addition to its commitment to waste reduction and energy conservation, making it one of the most eco-friendly colleges imaginable.
To that end, UVM made a commitment to source all of its energy from renewable resources by 2015 – which it did easily. In fact, the city of Burlington itself sources all of its energy from renewable sources, though UVM purchases RECs to ensure that all of its energy is certified renewable. That major policy decision, though, is only the most visible of UVM’s many initiatives; the university has installed solar panels on every viable surface, by working with the Burlington Electric Department. UVM has also made transportation a priority, including a fleet of buses that run on natural gas and a carefully engineered reduction of parking, encouraging students to bike and walk on campus. One of the most sustainable campuses in America, UVM can confidently be called a school to emulate.
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Tennessee’s flagship public research university, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is also the state’s leader in sustainability research and practice. Founded in 1794, when Tennessee was still a frontier territory, UT has always been at the forefront of development in Tennessee, from science and culture to business, law, and politics. The UT Medical Center, for instance, is the state’s only teaching hospital, while the university also edits and houses the papers of three US Presidents. In the 21st century, UT has continued its heritage of innovation and trailblazing in a number of directions, including sustainability, through campus policy, research, and instruction.
Like Western Washington University, the University of Tennessee’s sustainability effort came through the leadership of students rather than administration, as students voted in 2005 to add a Student Environmental Initiatives Facilities Fee for all students. By including a small annual fee, students have helped to transform the university’s energy usage, eventually ensuring that nearly 100% of power came from renewable sources. Energy is just part of the effort; the university is committed to becoming a zero-waste institution, diverting nearly 90% of waste away from landfills, while all new building and renovation must meet LEED certification standards. As it always has, the University of Tennessee is showing Tennessee the future, and earning a place as one of the best green colleges in the US.
Arizona State University-Tempe
The institution frequently named the most innovative university in America earned that name through all kinds of innovation – curriculum, leadership, admissions – but Arizona State University more than deserves acclaim for its leadership in sustainability. Founded as a regional teacher’s college in 1885, ASU entered the 21st century with unbounded ambition, and its bold vision has seen the university grow into the largest in the US. With more than 60,000 students spread across four Phoenix, AZ, campuses, ASU uses a lot of energy and has a major commitment to metropolitan Phoenix and to Arizona in general, so in addition to all of its other innovations, ASU is a proud campus-wide experiment in sustainability.
Currently, around a quarter of ASU’s energy comes from renewable sources, but as the university expands its on-campus solar arrays and wind turbines, ASU is steadily increasing its ability to create its own energy. Conservation is at the center of campus life as well, including ASU’s zero-waste initiatives for both solid and water waste (Phoenix is surrounded by desert, after all). Campus-wide composting and recycling are helping to eliminate landfill waste. Through all of these efforts, ASU is working to reduce its carbon footprint and become one of the nation’s most sustainable campuses, fully embracing its growing reputation as one of the best green colleges in the US.
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus
Life in New Hampshire has always revolved around the land, and the state’s land-grant public research institution, the University of New Hampshire, keeps that dedication alive more than a century and a half into its history. Founded in 1866, UNH was built on agriculture and mechanical engineering, like other land-grant institutions, and expanded from that base to become one of New England’s foremost public universities. Today, UNH is known for its excellence and influence in areas ranging from public policy to applied sciences, and its importance as New Hampshire’s largest university gives it significant clout when it comes to leading the state’s sustainability efforts.
New Hampshire is a prime state for conservation and environmental awareness, so the University of New Hampshire has taken its place as one of the state’s top renewable energy users. Regularly recognized by institutions like the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools and the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll, UNH is home to the nation’s oldest endowed sustainability major, just one of the university’s efforts. UNH not only makes sure to reduce energy usage on campus, but sources 100% of its power from renewable energy, while also working to reduce landfill waste to zero. Altogether, the University of New Hampshire defines what it means to be one of the best green colleges in the US.
Catholic University of America
The only American college founded by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic University of America was founded in 1887 with the intention of serving as the national Catholic university. As such, CUA is one of the most deeply Catholic institutions in the US, from hosting the American Cardinals Dinner to partnering with the Knights of Columbus. Part of that Catholic heritage is a dedication to service and community, and CUA has built its curriculum and campus life around improving life in Washington, DC, and nationwide. CUA has not only been ranked one of the best values and most underrated colleges in the nation, as well as earning federal recognition for community service; it’s also been named one of the most eco-friendly colleges.
CUA has been recognized by the EPA for its astounding embrace of renewable energy, including purchasing a full 100% of its energy from renewable sources. In addition to its purchasing, CUA is Washington’s largest producer of solar energy, with the largest solar array in the city, including thousands of panels and 70-space solar-powered parking structure for recharging electric vehicles. CUA’s official stance on sustainability draws on traditional Catholic values of stewardship for the earth, a significant article of the church’s faith, and Catholic University of America serves as an inspiration for other colleges as one of the best green colleges in the US.
University at Buffalo
Part of the world-renowned SUNY system, the University at Buffalo is one of New York’s most respected public institutions. Founded in 1846 as a private medical school, SUNY Buffalo essentially operates as the state’s flagship public research university (though not officially) – it has the largest student body, largest endowment, and largest research expenditure of the SUNY system. As a top-tier research university, UB has long been central to research and learning in the state, regularly ranking as New York’s top public university. Buffalo has also been a state leader in green initiatives for college campuses, coming around to the importance of sustainability early on.
SUNY Buffalo was the first college in the SUNY system to purchase wind-generated power, using the energy generated by a New York wind farm. In addition, UB has been steadily increasing its ability to generate its own power, with a substantial solar facility on the North Campus and plans to develop up to 100 MW of energy within the next 4 years. Through purchase of renewable power and RECs, SUNY Buffalo accounts for all of its energy needs, more than 200 MW a year, from sustainable sources – the equivalent of 17,000 cars off the road. Reducing its carbon footprint and giving back to the community makes the University at Buffalo one of the best green colleges in the US.
Founded in 1891 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Anthony Drexel, Drexel University has long been one of the most unique and exceptional institutions in higher education. Drexel’s mission, from the very beginning, revolved around practical education in the applied sciences, business, and professional careers, dedicated to hands-on, real-world learning. To that end, Drexel’s most distinguishing feature has been its influential co-op program, in which students alternate classroom education with internships and experiential learning. Drexel has also long been recognized for its community engagement and its sense of civic responsibility, qualities that come forward in its commitment to being one of the most sustainable campuses in America.
The Drexel Green Initiative was developed in 2008 by Drexel’s students, faculty, and leadership and can serve as a model for sustainability initiatives on college campuses. The university’s commitments – efficiency, recycling, reduction, re-use, education, and sustainability – are combined with university policies and active student engagement, providing a baseline for Drexel’s sustainability. Signing on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Drexel committed to reduce its carbon footprint by 80% before 2050; they achieved the goal in 2011, through a combination of REC purchases and 100% renewable energy purchasing. One of the best green colleges in the US, Drexel doesn’t do anything halfway.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
The University of South Florida has been uniquely dedicated to the needs of southern Florida since its beginning, as the first public university built from the ground up in the 20th century. Founded in 1956, USF began with a mission to provide educational opportunity to a region lacking in public higher education, but in just over six decades the university has become a critical part of research, learning, and professional development for Florida. USF is especially known for healthcare, but the university is also particularly interested in the health of the environment, as one of Florida’s leaders in sustainability.
USF has become known as one of the best green colleges in the US, thanks to a campus-wide focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility. USF is proud to be Florida’s metropolitan research institution, and the university makes community and city health a priority. The university is home to the Patel College of Global Sustainability, which houses the Patel Center for Global Responsibility and the Office of Sustainability, which leads the university’s policies and initiatives. USF is also a center for transportation studies, with the Center for Urban Transportation Research dedicated to finding smarter, more efficient, more sustainable ways to travel.
While it began in 1884 in the basement of the Philadelphia Baptist Temple (hence the unusual name), Temple University lives on today as a state-supported research university playing a key role in education and research in Pennsylvania and worldwide. From medicine and public health, to engineering, business, and law, Temple is one of the most respected, highly ranked public research universities in the nation. As an urban research institution, Temple understands its responsibility to Philadelphia’s people and to the environment as well, which is why the university has spent the last decade growing into one of the best green colleges in the US.
The Temple Office of Sustainability began in 2008, and Temple wasted no time in working to establish model green initiatives for college campuses all over the nation to emulate. The Center for Sustainable Communities is a research hub located at Temple, studying best practices and new technologies for sustainability, while the School of Environmental Design offers curricula focused on sustainability. In 2017, Temple became an EPA Green Power Partner with more than a quarter of its energy bought from renewable sources, while the university built the first solar array of any Philadelphia-area college. Even students are contributing with projects like the Temple Tiny House, a student-led model home built by the Temple Community Garden.