10 schools leading the way in Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges (photos)

Published on: 
17 Apr 2014
Hannah Wilber

Now in its fifth year, The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges, 2014 Edition, released today, profiles higher education institutions in the United States and Canada that demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. Colleges that succeed in achieving the highest possible Green Rating score for this guide also earn themselves a place on the Green Honor Roll. Here’s a look at 10 of those schools and the many great things they’re doing to cultivate the next generation of sustainability leaders.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology has been on the Green Honor Roll since 2011. Georgia Tech offers more than 100 courses with a sustainability focus, and it has one of the world’s largest grid-attached rooftop photovoltaic solar systems. The school’s renovated Olympic Village, which houses 2,000 students, is one of the largest university residence hall in the world to achieve LEED certification under the Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance rating system.

Students enjoy the green roof of the LEED Platinum Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons at Georgia Tech. Credit: Georgia Tech

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Making its debut on the Honor Roll this year, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign recently opened its new, LEED Platinum Business Instruction Facility, and has committed to achieving LEED Gold standards or better for all new buildings. The school has already invested $100 million in building retrofits and updates to ensure that the campus is more sustainable, and it is working to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The LEED Platinum Illinois Business Instructional Facility. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Middlebury College

Middlebury College is striving to become carbon neutral by 2016, employing strategies for greater energy conservation and efficiency, renewable fuel sources, technology innovation, education and, as a last option, purchasing of carbon offsets. The school recently completed a $12 million biomass gasification system (a furnace that burns renewable wood chips) that will reduce carbon emissions on campus by 40 percent and oil consumption by an impressive 1 million gallons. Middlebury College is also the first U.S. institution of higher education to offer an environmental studies major, which was established in 1965.

A Middlebury student works in the college's student-run organic garden, which sells produce to Middlebury Dining Services and donates to the local food shelter. Credit: Bridget Besaw

University of Oregon

The University of Oregon focuses on preparing green professionals who are able to skillfully apply their sustainability training to real world challenges. Oregon’s environmental studies department, public policy department, Lundquist College of Business and School of Architecture and Allied Arts all offer classes and curricula focused on sustainability. The campus is also home to four annual student-run conferences that give participants valuable hands-on experience with issues surrounding green business practices, green law and policy, and green design.

The LEED Platinum Lewis Integrative Science Complex at the University of Oregon. Credit: University of Oregon

Dickinson College

Dickinson College is continually raising the green bar on campus. While the college requires all new buildings be constructed to LEED Silver standards, every building constructed since 2008 has surpassed this goal by achieving LEED Gold certification. In addition, Dickinson purchases Renewable Energy Certificates, offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its electricity use by helping to finance the expansion of wind-generated electricity and reducing emissions from the U.S. electricity sector.

Students at work on the Dickinson College Biodiesel Program, a student-managed production operation that creates educational opportunities and provides the campus with a sustainable, alternative fuel source.

Portland State University

As a national leader in community-based learning, Portland State puts students to work solving sustainability problems on a neighborhood scale. Its campus is a living lab, testing everything from eco-roofs to district-scale energy systems, and it gives first-year students the option of living in a Sustainability Living Learning Community. Portland State is home to eight LEED-certified buildings, including the LEED Gold Recreation Center, where patrons can generate energy on exercise equipment and flush away waste with rainwater.

A student at work on a green roof on the Portland State campus. Credit: Portland State University

University of California, Santa Barbara

University of California, Santa Barbara is home to 32 sustainability-oriented student organizations, creating a vibrant, environmentally conscious student body. In fact, the university was one of the first in the country to establish a student-governed renewable energy fund that sponsors large scale green energy projects both on and off campus. The campus boasts 29 LEED-certified buildings, requires all new construction and renovation achieve LEED Gold, and is currently installing a 400-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array coupled with 12 electric vehicle charging stations for public use on campus.

Solar panels on Bren Hall at UC Santa Barbara. Credit: UCSB

University of Washington, Seattle

Qualifying for the Green Honor Roll every possible year, the University of Washington currently diverts 58 percent of its total waste away from landfills and toward organizations that can reuse or recycle the materials. To reduce utility costs and increase energy efficiency, UW has installed solar panels, retrofitted fixtures and replaced 1,800 inefficient toilets. These efforts have resulted in savings of an estimated 50 million gallons of water annually and avoided costs of nearly $50 million over 10 years.

Students work on the campus farm at the University of Washington. Credit: UW

University of South Florida

At the University of South Florida, sustainability is a mandatory part of the core undergraduate curriculum. The campus has five LEED-certified buildings, two at the Gold level, and several others currently under construction are pursuing LEED certification. The new Patel Center for Global Solutions Building will be the first building on campus to incorporate rainwater harvesting by collecting rainwater into a cistern and then plumbing it separately for toilet and urinal flushing. Three additional cisterns are in the planning process.

A solar umbrella on the University of South Florida campus. Credit: USF

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has taken on a series of ambitious initiatives, including its new Operations and Waste Management Facility. The first of its kind at a Wisconsin university, the facility features a pilot wastewater treatment plant, a composting lab, a microbiology lab and an adjoined recycling center. UW-Stevens Point created the nation’s first conservation education major back in 1946, founded the College of Natural Resources in 1970, and each residence hall has been equipped with recycling chutes since 1989.

The LEED Gold [email protected], the newest residence hall at UW-Stevens Point.

Want to help celebrate the launch of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges, 2014 Edition? Add your voice to our social media campaign by congratulating a college or university that is significant to you. Check out the guide to find your favorite institution, and join us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #PRGreenGuide. We’ll be creating lots of content you can share, or you can craft your own. Either way, you’ll be reinforcing these institutions’ investment in and commitment to sustainability, and encouraging them to keep up their great work.