50 Big Ways that Schools Are Going Green

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February 7th, 2010

Despite budget cuts at schools across the nation, colleges are still making the move to become greener, more sustainable institutions. And why not? College students have shown that it’s something that’s important to them when choosing a college. Here are 50 schools that have taken on some projects, both large and small, to lower their carbon footprint, reduce waste and teach students about ecological issues.

Green Energy

These schools have taken some of the first steps in using renewable energy.

  1. Georgia Institute of Technology: At Georgia Tech, technology doesn’t just mean gadgetry. The school has launched Green IT, a program that looks at power consumption across the entire computing system, from the PC to the server, and attempts to design them to be more energy efficient.
  2. The University of South Dakota: A portion of the needed energy at this South Dakota college will now come from a 51-megawatt capacity wind farm in central South Dakota, making the school one of the leaders in renewable energy in the Midwest.
  3. Middlebury College, Vermont: This college has built a biomass gasification plant on site, which is designed to reduce the school’s carbon dioxide by 40 percent and the use of fuel oil by 50 percent.
  4. Bates College: Bates College gets nearly all of its energy from renewable sources (95% and growing) and is looking to increase its use of biodeisel in the coming years.
  5. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME: This school has the impressive designation of being carbon neutral since 2007, the first school to do so, and it is constantly coming up with new ways to stay that way and conserve more energy with hydroelectric energy and new, energy-efficient buildings.
  6. University of California, Santa Cruz: Students at UC Santa Cruz voted to increase their fees so that the school could buy more renewable energy credits, making the school the sixth largest purchaser of renewable energy in the nation.
  7. University of New Hampshire, Durham: This university wanted to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels so it turned to an alternative source of energy. Today, the school gets 85% of its gas from landfill gas as well as using energy often lost in most traditional power plants.
  8. Arizona State University: Arizona is the ideal place to get solar energy, and this school is taking full advantage of it, getting almost half of its energy from solar panels by the end of 2009. In the coming years, the school hopes to increase that figure to 100%.
  9. New York University: This large university buys enough renewable-energy credits to offset all of its electricity use, helping make it one of the most sustainably powered schools in the nation.
  10. Grinnell College, Iowa: The geothermal wells below the parking lot at Grinnell College’s Conrad Environmental Research Area help to heat and cool the buildings, saving the university a bundle on energy costs.

Green Education

Check out these schools that have great educational programs to teach students about living green.

  1. Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA: Not only does this school house a fleet of electric vehicles, it also runs a sustainably managed farm where it teaches courses in organic agriculture.
  2. Oberlin College, Ohio: For the past few years, Oberlin has hosted Ecolympics, a four-week series of environmentally themed contests between dorms. Students compete to reduce waste, save energy and volunteer for environmental causes.
  3. Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penn: This school has created a campus Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education and an organic farm where students can learn about sustainable products while getting college credit in the process. Additionally, the school has eliminated all styrofoam from its dining services.
  4. University of East Anglia: At this college, you can major in enviornmental conservation. The school has created an MBA degree in carbon management, so that students will be able to better help businesses large and small manage their carbon output.
  5. University of Rhode Island: In addition to programs to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, URI has created research programs on campus to investigate renewable energies, an MBA program in ocean and climate sciences and an undergrad degree in sustainability.
  6. University of Buffalo: At U of Buffalo’s Center for Computational Reserach, the research has led to some pretty great discoveries in energy conservation. The school made the move to more energy efficient computing systems saving money and energy and making science more environmentally friendly.
  7. California State University in Long Beach: At this school’s College of Continuing and Professional Education, students can take three-hour workshops to help them understand and lower their utlitity bills.
  8. Maharishi University, Fairfield, IA: This school has launched a sustainable living degree program through which students take courses on topics like renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, green business, eco-architecture and more.
  9. Michigan State University: This university’s Department of Theatre is working on producing a totally green play, using natural fabrics, energy efficient lighting and recycled materials.

Green Eating

These schools work hard to reduce waste and offer students healthier options at mealtime.

  1. U of Washington, Seattle: You won’t find loads of processed, imported foods in this school’s cafeteria. The college works to bring in as much local, organic food as it can and is currently the pilot site to test the first compostable paper soft drink cups.
  2. University of California, Berkeley: UC Berkely was the first school in the US to have its cafeteria food be organically certified, something its environmentally conscious students appreciate.
  3. Yale University: Visit this school and you’ll find that almost half of the food in the dining halls is local, seasonal, or organic. This not only means better quality food but fewer chemicals and less energy to transport it.
  4. Bates College, Lewiston, Maine: The dining halls at this school are all about buying local, preventing food waste and using renewnable energy to power their serivces.
  5. Willamette University, Salem, Oregon: This school believes wholeheartedly in reducing waste from its dining halls. It is a leader in the nation for recycling and composts over 50 percent of its food waste.
  6. Warren Wilson College, Asheville, N. Carolina: This school took composting to the next level. They’ve worked to compost almost all food waste from the dining halls and have even recieved the Outstanding College Recycling Award from the Carolina Recycling Association.
  7. University of Massachusetts: Here, officials figured one way to cut down on food waste was to make it harder for students to take more than they need, so the school eliminated trays from its dining halls. Additionally, since there are no trays to be washed, the school saves water as well.
  8. Emory University, Atlanta, GA: This Georgia school has launched a new sustainable-food initiative, with the goal of replacing 75 percent of its food supply with local products by 2015.
  9. Portland State University: The dining facilities at this school are working hard to become zero waste facilities, meaning all compostables and recyclables will be taken care of.
  10. Dickinson College: This school has an incredible record when it comes to earth-friendly dining. 25 percent of the food comes from the school’s own organic farm and over 27 percent of the remaining budget is spend on local food. The school recycles and composts all waste that can be reused from the school and is committed to sustainable and organic products in its dining services.

Green Building

Check out the strides these campuses have been making in creating greener, more energy efficient buildings.

  1. University of Colorado, Boulder: All new buildings on this Colorado campus must meet buildings LEED standards, including a new gold standard dorm, allowing the campus to slowly lower the amount of energy it uses and waste it produces. Additionally, the school supplies all incoming students with reusable shopping bags to encouage sustainable living.
  2. University of Florida, Gainesville: A new addition to the Gator football complex is certified LEED Platinum, making it the first athletic building in the U.S. to take that distinction and setting the school up for years of saving on energy.
  3. Stanford University:This school has taken recycled materials to the next level. The Carnegie Institute for Global Ecology is faced with redwood salvaged from old wine vats and the majority of the building was constructed using salvaged materials.
  4. Santa Clara University: The Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library at this school boast construction from almost 70 percent recycled materials and design created to reduce waste and energy costs.
  5. University of California-San Diego: The new dorms on U of C, San-Deigo’s campus are incredibly ecologically conscious, containing solar thermal heating, new carpet and furniture made from recycled material, energy efficient lighting, low flow plumbing, green cleaning supplies and much more.
  6. Santiago Canyon College: This school has a brand new, energy efficient library. This library used vertical perforated solar fins as a way to cool the new space, eliminating a large portion of the costs and fossil fuels needed.
  7. Brown University: At this school, all new buildings must meet at least LEED silver standards. Currently, the school has one completed LEED building and seven more under construction, and the other builidings on campus have been outfitted with energy saving measures.

Green Transport

On these college campuses, getting around is a little friendlier to the environment.

  1. University of Vermont, Burlington: This school is home to a fleet of biofuel buses, helping students get around and the school reduce the use of fossil fuels.
  2. Colorado College: At Colorado College, cyclists can find a friendly atmosphere. The Russell T. Tutt Science Center houses a shower for bicycle commuters and all university buildings are required to have bike racks out front.
  3. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Students at this school put their brains to work, aiming to improve the environmental performance of a Vespa scooter. This freshman class worked to improve the mileage by ten percent.
  4. Amherst College: At this school the bus service is free but students who drive can still be environmentally friendly as well with a commercial car-sharing program. Since its implementation, the program has reduced demand for parking spaces by 20 percent.
  5. University of Minnesota: Students have a wide range of eco-conscious ways to get around on this college campus. Public transportation is discounted for students and the university is currently sponsoring a bike-sharing program with the city that will make 1,000 bicycles available on campus and at public locations around the area.


These schools have launched some pretty commendable conservation efforts.

  1. University of California, Los Angeles: UCLA recycles as much waste as it can from its college campus, from paper to dining halls to electronics.
  2. Harvard University: Harvard has made a big effort to improve conservation in its buildings on campus. The school has installed CFLs, solar panels, and now has 17 LEED-certified buildings and has institued several policies on campus to reduce energy waste as well.
  3. University of South Carolina: At this school, small changes have made a big impact, with new flat screen monitors, efficient washers and dryers, a shift to biofuel and a move-out recycling program for on-campus housing.
  4. George Washington University, Washington, D.C: Move-outs and move-ins to dorms are times when a lot of garbage is made. This school has created a solution by instituting a green policy on these dates to help students and the environment.
  5. Arizona State University: This school has a major project under way to retrofit interior and exterior lighting so that it’s more energy efficient, saving the Earth and a load of money in the process.
  6. Middle Tennessee State University: You wouldn’t think students would want to pay more to attend college, but at this school the students did just that. 90 percent of students approved an $8-per-semester fee hike in order to sponsor environmentally friendly intiatives on campus.
  7. SUNY Binghamton: This school turned once-boring parking lots into parks with Operation Green Space over the past few years, transforming 81,860 square feet of paved areas to green space.
  8. Univeristy of Hawaii: Here, new construction is using pervious concrete to pave the walkways and areas around some of its student housing buildings. This kind of concrete lets water seep through instead of running off.
  9. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff: The university is completing a project to convert all lighting on campus to energy-saving bulbs, helping them decrease energy consumption by about 40 percent in the first year of use alone.

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