Guest correspondent, Kate Willson, reports on some of this country’s top sustainable colleges for 2011. She writes regularly about colleges and sent this note accompanying her report: “I am not associated with any of these schools. I honestly chose these schools because I felt that the schools that made A’s were quite repetitive (they made the same initiatives and reforms.) To add some variety, I also wanted to highlight what other of the schools were doing.”
GreenReportCard.org recently released its annual list of the top 52 sustainable colleges and universities in the nation. Wilson says, “In the past, the highest overall score was an “A-”. For the first time, seven schools achieved an “A.” While the schools with the highest grades are Brown University, Dickinson College, Oberlin College, Pomona College, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, University of Wisconsin–Madison and Yale University, below are some additional schools to take notice. Let it be known that I am not associated with any of these schools. (To see the full list of green colleges and universities go to The 2011 College Sustainability Report Card.) I chose these schools because I felt that the schools that made A’s were quite repetitive (they made the same initiatives and reforms.) So I wanted to highlight what other schools were doing to add some variety.”
Colorado College: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado College is located in an area lush with forestry and wildlife. So it’s no surprise that it wants to ensure that the state’s beauty is properly preserved. According to the report card, students recently conducted a semester-long campaign that managed to reduce energy by 12 percent and increased the waste diversion rate by more than 200 percent. In addition, aside from the campaign, students also collectively work together to educate children about environmental issues, hand out fair trade coffee, and operate a bike and car-sharing program. Colorado College’s ultimate goal is to achieve carbon neutrality within the next decade. To help implement their goal, the school has installed electric metering and steam line insulation in all of its buildings, lighting retrofits in 90 percent of buildings, and an energy management system in about 65 percent of the buildings. And to reduce waste, the college mandates that all printers are set to print double-sided. About 43 percent of the school’s food budget is spent on local products.
Arizona State University: Tempe, Arizona
ASU was not only the first public university in the U.S. to create a School for Sustainability where students can take courses such as international development, the economics of sustainability and sustainable ecosystems, but also the first school to create a housing facility where those who like to live green can unify. In general the school as a whole works together to put on programs to save the planet such as RecycleMania and the Solar Decathlon. About half of all the students do their best to use an alternative means of transportation, such as utilizing the campus shuttle or ASU’s bike-sharing program. The dining hall has been trayless since 2008 and serves some vegetarian-fed meat and hormone and antibiotic-free chicken and milk. Like most universities, ASU recycles standard materials such as paper and electronics, and donates or reuses forgotten items at move-out.
Tulane University: New Orleans, Louisiana
Since 2006, Tulane University has reduced its green house gas emissions by 3 percent. In order to continue with its mission to be a more sustainable facility, the university has not only implemented a variety of energy management systems, it has begun to install a number of low-flow faucets and showerheads, and weather-informed irrigation systems all across campus. While there is currently no building that meets LEED standards as of yet, the university has a huge construction project in Dinwiddie Hall, which is expected to meet LEED standards. As a new reform, all new incoming freshmen receive information about sustainability during orientation.
University of Minnesota
According to the report card, UMN has managed to effectively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by installing numerous energy efficiency technologies. Some include creating a cogeneration facility, installing an energy management system and lighting retrofits. In addition, UMN generates about 3 percent of its energy from burning oat hulls for biofuel, the report card states. The university shines when it comes to its dining facilities and green practices. For example, the school ensures that it composts about 30 tons of pre- and postconsumer food waste each month; most of the food severed at the university is local and organic such as cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, and hormone-free milk; and to encourage students to be more sustainable the school also offer discounts for students who use reusable bags, mugs, and to-go boxes.
Virginia Commonwealth University; Richmond, Virginia
Like many of the other schools that made the grade, this university spends about 16 percent of its budget on local and organic food products. Almost all of the dairy and milk products are hormone and antibiotic free; almost all of the seafood is sustainably harvested; and all of the coffee and chocolate are fair-trade. In addition, not only is the dining hall a trayless zone, the university also operates a program that reuses and recycles surplus goods such as furniture, appliances, and clothing. As far as the structure of the buildings is concerned, there are exactly 11 that meet LEED standards (covering about 14 percent of campus). The school has also made additional initiatives to be green having installed water-saving technologies that include low-pressure showers, dual-flush toilets, and waterless urinals. According to the report card, full-time students can ride the bus for free and employees who carpool receive the best parking