By BCR Staff
There are many factors to consider when choosing a college or university to attend, including tuition, academic programs offered, and student life, just to name a few. If you’re particularly environmentally aware, though, the school’s sustainability efforts may be a key factor in your decision-making. In this ranking, we explore the 25 top green schools in America.
#25 – Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
One of the top green schools in America, Colorado State University is the very first green campus to achieve platinum status under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and it prides itself on its history as one of the most sustainable universities in the country. It offers sustainability-oriented academic programs and extracurricular activities. The green school also boasts decreased water usage and 93% waste diversion in campus dining centers. Students are encouraged to use eco-friendly methods of transportation and take advantage of the university’s bike-friendly campus, alternative transit shuttle system, and electric car charging stations.
In-State Tuition: $11,052
#24 –Green Mountain College
The first green campus in the country to be named an EPA Energy Star campus, Green Mountain College has always been a leader in environmental stewardship. According to its Sustainability 2020 plan, the college aims to adopt 100% renewable energy and reach climate neutrality by the end of the decade. Students play a crucial part in this plan. They have historically been leaders when it comes to implementing new projects. In fact, one of the college’s points of pride, the biomass facility that heats the university, was primarily conceived and put in place by a group of students and recent graduates.
In-State Tuition: $37,002
#23 –Randolph College
As a rising star among green universities, Randolph College uses a wide range of initiatives to bring its campus closer to sustainability. It makes recycling easy by placing separate landfill and single stream recycling bins in each dorm room and participates in RecycleMania. It constantly upgrades facilities to be more energy efficient, and it maintains the grounds with minimal use of equipment that pollutes or requires a lot of energy. Multiple alternative transportation services are made available to students at little or no cost, so they can travel to and from campus with a minimal carbon footprint.
In-State Tuition: $36,770
#22 – University of California- Davis
The University of California – Davis is one of the world’s leading campuses in sustainability and a top green college in the US. UC Davis emphasizes the reduction of greenhouse gases and aims to be carbon neutral by 2025. The campus boasts energy-efficient housing, a student farm based in sustainable practices, and a Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester that can convert 50 tons of waste into energy every day. One of this green campus’s most exciting features is its annual Whole Earth Festival. This festival produces zero waste and brings students together to promote sustainability and have fun with the rest of the Davis community.
In-State Tuition: $14,046
#21 –American University
As one of the most promising green schools in this ranking, American University aims to be a climate neutral and zero-waste campus by 2020. Like many environmentally conscious universities, AU heavily promotes its recycling and composting programs and encourages students to do their part by throwing their trash in the correct bins. It also encourages students to take environmentally friendly methods of transportation to and from classes by being a bike-friendly university. Alongside these typical activities, AU also hosts fun events such as a sustainability book club, hiking trips, and the Zero Waste Conference.
In-State Tuition: $44,853
#20 –Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, California
Loyola Marymount University’s sustainability initiatives emphasize community, imagination, progress, and adventure. The university has placed first in national sustainability competitions, including RecycleMania and Campus Conservation Nationals. It won these and other awards in large part thanks to its many robust environmental initiatives. Almost every aspect of campus life has a related sustainability initiative. Some of the university’s main focuses are taking advantage of solar energy, using more reclaimed water, recycling, and encouraging alternative transport. It offers students many opportunities to gain hands-on experience and make a difference through programs in off-campus facilities that serve the community, such as schools and parks.
In-State Tuition: $44,480
#19 – University of Maine
Established as Maine’s flagship Land Grant institution, the University of Maine has a long history of environmentally friendly practices. This top green school participates in the Maine Partnership for Environmental Stewardship to not only improve its own sustainability practices, but make the region as a whole more environmentally friendly. It’s zero-sort recycling system makes it easier for students to do their part to reduce waste. Their composting efforts also dramatically reduces material in the waste stream by diverting it to on-campus gardening, landscaping, and research.
In-State Tuition: $10,628
#18 –Champlain College
Champlain College considers sustainability one of its core values. As a result, it has developed the Sustain Champlain Initiative to ensure that the college remains a good steward of its resources and continues to meet certain green standards. Champlain emphasizes community, and regularly partners with local organizations to help make both the campus and its surrounding community more sustainable. This leads to several service learning opportunities that students can take advantage of. The college also regularly hosts events and activities such as the annual “Kill-A-Watt Challenge,” where dorms compete to reduce energy usage.
In-State Tuition: $38,660
#17 – University of California- Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
The University of California – Santa Barbara is considered the top Green School among public universities by the Princeton Review and boasts a large collection of environmentally friendly buildings. It also encourages green methods of transportation through its bike-friendly infrastructure, electric vehicle charging stations, and alternative fuel program. Almost two-thirds of students walk, bike, or skateboard to class. As a leading green school in America, UC Santa Barbara is also in the process of implementing a zero-waste policy, which aims to increase composting and recycling through infrastructure changes and campus-wide events.
In-State Tuition: $14,073
#16 – University of Colorado-Boulder
As one of the preeminent green universities in the nation, the University of Colorado – Boulder makes sustainability a major part of its academics, extracurricular activities, and daily operations. Roughly a fourth of all offered courses are sustainability-related, and two-thirds of the university’s departments have faculty engaged in sustainability-related research. Students are offered several immersion activities both on and off campus, including the Sustainability and Social Innovation Residential Academic Program. This program allows students from different majors to live together in a community that focuses on addressing issues such as climate change and resource depletion.
In-State Tuition: $11,531
#15 –Goucher College
One of the up and coming green colleges in our ranking, Goucher College makes sustainability a priority in its curriculum and operations. Not only does the college offer an environmental studies program, but it makes sustainability a required part of every students’ liberal arts education. The college offers multiple alternative transportation methods to help decrease the impact student commuting has on the environment, including Zipcar and a shuttle network. It also has committed to fitting all new buildings with energy-efficient hardware and replacing hardware in old buildings with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
In-State Tuition: $43,416
#14 – University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut’s commitment to sustainability manifests itself in several ways. One way is through its engagement programs that encourage and empower students to be part of the campus culture of sustainability through awareness campaigns and activities. The EcoHusky student group is a major part of this effort to engage students, regularly hosting events and activities. Several on-campus facilities have gone through major overhauls to make them more energy efficient, and more buildings are set to receive similar improvements. Recycling and composting are also emphasized, and students are encouraged to use energy efficient modes of transportation such as bikes and electric vehicles.
In-State Tuition: $14,066
#13 – University of California- Riverside
In the tradition of leading green colleges, the University of California – Riverside’s sustainability efforts cover an impressive number of topics and environmental concerns. The university summarizes them into nine main areas of focus: water, transportation, academics and research, built environment, food, recycling and waste management, sites, procurement, and energy and climate protection. Even this simplified list can sound overwhelming, but the university effectively educates students and makes it easy for the student body to get involved through regular events and activities. These include internships, conferences, volunteer opportunities, and recycling competitions.
In-State Tuition: $13,581
#12 – University of Washington
The University of Washington is continually engaged in projects based around conservation and sustainability. This includes measures as simple as opting out of paper copies of forms and projects as large as a stadium renovation. The student body is considered a major part of all of these efforts, so the university offers several ways for them to participate and help make the campus more eco-friendly. This includes regular events, several courses related to sustainability, and multiple student groups focused on different environmental issues.
In-State Tuition: $10,753
#11 – Portland State University
Portland State University establishes itself among the top green schools in America by promoting sustainability both on campus and in the larger Portland community through its Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Campus Sustainability Office, and Student Sustainability Center. These three units allow the university to undertake several projects efficiently and successfully. The ISS emphasizes research and academics, the SSC emphasizes student participation through service learning and other hands-on opportunities, and the CSO helps manage campus resources. While the SSC is the most engaged connected with students, all three have close ties to the community and student body.
In-State Tuition: $8,337
#10 – University of California- Berkeley
The University of California – Berkeley prides itself in its many sustainability-based campus initiatives. It aims to become carbon neutral by 2025, and it has already made significant progress towards this goal. The vast majority of students walk, bike, or take public transportation to and from campus, and five buildings have been equipped with solar panels. UC Berkeley is also aiming to become a zero-waste campus. Waste diversion rates are increasing thanks to both campus recycling programs and student-managed programs. Faculty are constantly engaged in research related to sustainability, and students are able to take advantage of faculty interest in the environment and make sustainability a major part of their curriculum.
In-State Tuition: $13,509
#9 –Warren Wilson College
Asheville, North Carolina
As is the case for many top green schools in America, individual students are the center of sustainability efforts at Warren Wilson College. The college emphasizes personal responsibility and encourages students to develop habits that reduce waste. Warren Wilson is one of the many institutions that have committed to completely divest from fossil fuels, and it has signed onto the Real Food Challenge to buy and serve food that is locally sourced and respects the welfare of both humans and the environment. The college aims to become a zero-waste institution by 2032.
In-State Tuition: $33,970
#8 – University of Oregon
To remain one of the leading green universities in the country, the University of Oregon is constantly improving and increasing the scope of its sustainability efforts. Multiple groups and departments participate in these efforts, which creates a consistent culture of sustainability across all aspects of student life. The university operates a community garden, seed library, and zero waste program. Housing and dining halls also work towards being more sustainable by using more energy-efficient equipment and taking advantage of local, in-season products. Students are given access to free reusable bottles to encourage use of hydration stations, and paths are designed to be bike-friendly.
In-State Tuition: $10,761
#7 – University of Massachusetts- Amherst
The first public university to divest from direct fossil fuel holdings and one of the nation’s largest food-service providers to commit to using only local, sustainable food sources, the University of Massachusetts – Amherst is known for being a leader when it comes to sustainability efforts. It is home to the School of Earth and Sustainability, which gives students and faculty a hub to study and research topics related to the environmental sciences and sustainability. UMass Amherst also boasts an efficient recycling program and one of New England’s largest solar panel projects.
In-State Tuition: $14,971
#6 – Arizona State University
A pioneer among green colleges, Arizona State University is home to the nation’s first school of sustainability, which offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees to students interested in sustainability careers. These degrees are available on multiple campuses, including ASU online. It also facilitates faculty research, which students are also able to participate in. Hands-on learning is highly encouraged, and many students participate in internships, study abroad, and volunteer opportunities based around sustainability initiatives. Outside of academics, students are encouraged to participate in one or more of the many on-campus student organizations that work to make the campus and community more environmentally friendly.
In-State Tuition: $10,370
#5 –Chatham University
One of many green universities that have pledged to become carbon neutral, Chatham University is constantly working to make its campus more environmentally friendly. It is an officially recognized Tree Campus, having met the standards for sustainable forestry set by Tree Campus USA. It is also a regular participant in the national recycling tournament RecycleMania. One unique feature of the campus is Rea House, which is Chatham’s small environmentally-themed student dorm. Students living in Rea House live and work together in a small community of 28 students and work to display a commitment to an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
In-State Tuition: $35,475
#4 – University of Maryland- College Park
College Park, Maryland
The University of Maryland – College Park makes sustainability a priority. All departments are involved in the development and implementation of initiatives that make both the campus and its surrounding communities more environmentally friendly, and several faculty members are involved in sustainability-related research. Collaboration between the university and local organizations makes it easy for students to get involved and make a difference through internships and volunteer opportunities. There are also over twenty student groups that focus on different environmental issues.
In-State Tuition: $10,181
#3 –University of Virginia
One of the nine institutes of higher education in America to be recognized as a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, the University of Virginia is committed to engaging the community and empowering students to live more sustainably. Notable programs include the Green Labs Program, The Green Workplace Program, and Recycling and Waste Diversion. These give both individual students and larger groups straightforward steps they can take to reduce wasted resources during research, work, and everyday life.
In-State Tuition: $16,412
#2 –Iowa State University
A leader among green campuses in the United States, Iowa State University prides itself in its sustainability infrastructure. This infrastructure consists of seven groups of students and faculty working together to support the university’s campus-wide “Live Green!” initiative. This initiative includes both academic and extracurricular efforts to make ISU a more environmentally conscious and energy efficient campus. One of the biggest focuses in both of these areas is hands-on learning. Students are offered numerous opportunities to gain real-world experience and make a tangible difference through volunteer work, research, study abroad, and club activities.
In-State Tuition: $8,219
#1 –University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Like many of the green universities in our ranking, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill supports an impressive number of sustainability initiatives across a wide range of fields and topics of concern. Major projects include construction of energy-efficient buildings, retrofitting more environmentally friendly hardware into older facilities, increasing green transportation options, and reducing water use. The university also encourages students and faculty to lead smaller initiatives and put on events that promote a culture of sustainability. The ultimate aim of the campus is to meet the “Three Zeros Goals:” net zero water usage, zero waste to landfills, and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
In-State Tuition: $8,834
Rating and Ranking Methodology
Princeton Review Ranking- 1 point per ranking #
- Under $50,000—1 point
- Under $45,000—2 points
- Under $40,000—3 points
- Under $35,000—4 points
- Under $30,000—5 points
- Under $25,000—6 points
- Under $20,000—7 points
- Under $15,000—8 points
- Under $10,000—9 points
US News and World Report Ranking
- Top 10—10 points
- Top 25 —9 points
- Top 50 —8 points
- Top 75 —7 points
- Top 100—6 points
- Top 125—5 points
- Top 150—4 points
- Top 175—3 points
- Top 200—2 points
- Top 250—1 point
To compile this ranking of the top green universities in the United States, our editors considered three main factors, as reflected in the rating and ranking methodology above: Princeton Review’s comprehensive evaluation of green schools in America, US News and World Report’s overall rating of each school, and each school’s tuition. In cases of a tie, the more affordable school received the higher ranking.