Which U.S. Universities Are The Greenest?


In a recently released free book by the Princeton Review, three-hundred and thirty universities in the United States and two in Canada are profiled as green four-year higher education institutions. The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges, released on April 17, set out to profile these institutions for “[demonstrating] a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation.” The schools were scored on a Green Rating system based on data obtained from schools using a ten point survey questionnaire which included queries on a range of topics such as: mass transit programs like bike sharing and local housing, whether a school has a formal committee dedicated to sustainability on campus, and whether the school has a sustainability-focused undergraduate degree programs or an equivalent.

The guide, the result of a collaboration between the Princeton Review and the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, began production after the Review took notice of a growing number of student and school-based sustainability initiatives on university campuses around the 2007-2008 school year. This observation led the company to begin incorporating questions on environmental responsibility in annual university surveys. The book was ultimately released for free online in line with the company’s commitment to allow access to data that may be difficult for prospective students to obtain in order to find a “best fit” school.

In each university profile, the guide highlights individual accomplishments a school has made in promoting environmentalism and sustainability. Brandeis University, for example, is noted for four funding cycles of its Sustainability Fund which awards student-run sustainability projects $50,000 annually. Florida State University is recognized for their robust alternative transportation system with their bike sharing program and special GOTCHA green taxi service. The George Washington University is noted for its unrivaled roster of over 100 courses on sustainability that span a variety of majors and fields of study including anthropology, religion, and political science.

Of the three-hundred and thirty universities featured in the United States, eighteen of the schools reside in the states of Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, making Northern New England the region with the highest number of green campuses per capita in the country, although the Review emphasizes that the guide is meant to be purely quantitative and qualitative and, ultimately, not a ranking of any kind.

Not everyone is for universities adopting green energy practices and educating students about sustainability. Some, such as the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Tice, argue that universities that educate students about clean, renewable energy sources are pushing an agenda. However, as a survey done last year by the Princeton Review finds, sixty-two percent of prospective students say they would value information about a school’s commitment to environmental and sustainability issues. With over half of pre-undergraduate students showing that a school’s commitment to environmental issues has an influence over their choice of school, it’s clear that an America in support of green initiatives is not the fault of any college.