The Top 7 Greenest Colleges in the US

November 3, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The Top 7 Greenest Colleges in the US

When it comes to choosing a college, there are so many factors to consider. Most students are concerned with academics and general student life, but one of the factors that are becoming more and more important to students is the carbon footprint that their school makes. While this may not be the main deciding factor, students want to know which colleges have the greenest campuses because it indicates that the school is focused on the environment and its effect on the world.

In this post we’re going to list the top 7 greenest colleges, but we’re also going to look at what these innovative colleges are doing, and how they are ranked. With climate change becoming one of the most important issues for young people, it makes sense that colleges are doing everything they can to make sure they have a positive impact on their local environment and the world. These colleges also hope to inspire their students to be more mindful about the environment and what we can all do to help.

Before we get into the list of the top 7 greenest colleges, let’s talk about how schools are ranked for environmental innovation. Our list is based on an organization called Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS.

View of students walking in the school campus.

STARS looks at most of the colleges in the United States to determine what initiatives these schools are taking to improve their sustainability and make their campus more green. STARS gives each college a score that reflects how well they are taking on this important challenge. Beyond the numerical score, STARS also assigns all schools a ranking with Platinum being the highest honor.

There are numerous criteria used by STARS to assign their rankings, and these include how academics reflect their climate initiative, energy use, community engagement, and transportation. So, let’s take a look at the list.

1. University of California—Merced

STARS ranking: #1

STARS score: 85.5

STARS rating: Platinum

The University of California—Merced is the newest of the 10 University of California schools, and they are already taking a unique approach to sustainability. Located in central California, UC—Merced has a massive 7000 acre campus which is mostly grassland. This land is used for many different purposes, but mainly for agricultural and environmental research. There are also numerous protected and endangered species on the land, and UC—Merced has taken it upon themselves to protect them.

View of University of California- Merced school campus.

One of the main reasons why UC—Merced is at the top of our list of greenest colleges is their commitment to lowering energy use. This is done by using energy efficient solutions for lighting, heating, and cooling, and they use a variety of methods to accomplish this. Another issue that is at the forefront of the climate movement is waste management. The more waste an organization produces the more of an effect it will have on the climate and local ecosystem. UC—Merced has been pioneering ways to cut their waste, and students are required to take environmental sustainability instruction when they arrive on campus.

2. Cornell University

STARS ranking: #2

STARS score: 86.35

STARS rating: Platinum

Located in rural upstate New York, Cornell has always been at the forefront of scientific innovation. So, it should come as no surprise that Cornell is also taking climate change and their environment very seriously. Part of this is accomplished through their sustainability planning efforts, and they are in the process of implementing a Sustainable Studies graduate program.

View of Cornell University building.

Even if students are not yet able to partake in this program yet, all Cornell students are made aware of the sustainability efforts that Cornell is making, and all students will graduate with a strong understanding of what sustainability means both on-campus and in the greater world. Cornell also shines with their efforts to research climate change and develop methods of reducing our general carbon footprint. They also have a number of on-campus initiatives designed to encourage students to reduce their energy consumption and waste.

3. Stanford University

STARS ranking: #3

STARS score: 85.88

STARS rating: Platinum

Energy is a big part of what Stanford is trying to accomplish with their green initiatives. They’ve managed to become one of the greenest colleges in the US by figuring out ways to limit energy use, and to produce their own clean energy. Because energy production is one of the main contributing factors of climate change, this is an important task.

In order to create this energy for the campus, Stanford has a number of off-campus solar installations and this makes up a large chunk of their on-campus energy, 67% of which is completely clean and renewable.

View of Stanford University campus at day time.

Another area where Stanford is leading the way is with water. It’s no secret that the entire American West is in a severe drought, and California has been doing many different things to solve the water crisis. Stanford has made great strides to reduce their water consumption by installing green water fixtures and giving students tips on how to reduce their personal water usage. They even give out points to students who manage to significantly reduce their usage.

4. Arizona State University

STARS rank: #4

STARS score: 87.1

STARS rating: Platinum

Arizona is another dry state that needs to do all it can to reduce water consumption and produce clean energy. But another aspect of going green is finding ways to keep harmful pollutants out of the ground. These chemicals can poison ground water and lead to all kinds of environmental harm.

Arizona State has been tackling this challenge by improving the quality of the products they use on campus. Students need food that comes in a certain amount of packaging, and Arizona State has found ways to buy more sustainable, biodegradable products. They’ve also invested in buying cleaning products that are environmentally friendly.

View of individuals walking in the school campus.

Arizona State also tackles environmental issues by instituting a School of Sustainability where students can learn about the different methods of sustainability and how to develop new methods that can be used in the future. In addition to this, Arizona State has also started a new construction program that mandates that all new building be built to meet EPA standards for sustainability.

5. University of New Hampshire

STARS ranking: #5

STARS score: 86.09

STARS rating: Platinum

The University of New Hampshire has been leading the way on sustainability for years, and this has made them one of the most environmentally friendly colleges in the US. They go about this in a number of ways, but perhaps the most significant method they use is spending. In total, the University of New Hampshire has nearly $300 million in their endowment, and they’ve committed nearly half of this money to sustainability projects and research. The school also uses their endowment funds to invest in companies that are doing work to further sustainability and fight climate change. Doing so allows these companies to grow, and UNH becomes a vital partner to them.

View of a university building surrounded by greenery.

Another issue that climate scientists are ringing the alarm bells about is emissions. Our carbon emissions play a crucial role in the warming of the planet, and large institutions like universities can emit huge amounts of carbon without even knowing it. UNH takes a proactive approach to this by using interns to monitor the carbon emissions produced by all of the different departments on campus. This allows the school to develop ways to counter these emissions and their carbon footprint.

6. State University of New York—School of Environmental Sciences and Forestry

STARS ranking: #6

STARS score: 85.66

STARS rating: Platinum

The SUNY system in New York is large and varied, which allows schools like this to focus their efforts on a single area. In this case, the environment. One of the main factors in STARS ranking SUNY—Environmental Sciences and Forestry so high on this list is because the entire focus on their curriculum is on environmental studies. In total, they offer 165 courses that are focused directly on sustainability, and another 217 that include sustainability as part of the course work.

View ofState University of New York—School of Environmental Sciences and Forestry building.

In addition to focusing on training the environmental scientist of the future, they are also making great strides toward full campus sustainability. In other words, they practice what they preach. One of the main ways that they’ve been able to do this is by significantly reducing on-campus water consumption by nearly 57%. They’ve also introduced a number of initiatives that have achieved their goal of zero net carbon emissions.

7. University of California—Berkeley

STARS ranking: #7

STARS score: 85.39

STARS rating: Platinum

The University of California—Berkeley has always been a leader when it comes to sustainability research, but they’re also one of the country’s greenest colleges. One of the ways Berkeley has managed to do this is through extensive educational efforts over the years. The city of Berkeley has always been known as something of a hippie haven in Northern California, and the university has reflected this priority for many years. Part of being one of the most environmentally friendly colleges is listening to your community, and Berkeley has done just that.

View of Berkeley University tower surrounded by trees.

In an effort to be one of the country’s most innovative colleges, Berkeley has 55 sustainability related campus organizations that are designed to educate the student body and push the administration to take further action on environmental issues. They’ve also invested heavily in solar energy which has helped the campus reduce its dependence on fossil fuel-based energy. In addition to these actions, Berkeley is also committed to banning all types of single-use plastic from their campus.

So, there you have it. AdmissionSight’s list of the 7 greenest colleges in the US. If you’ve been wondering, what schools have the greenest campuses, hopefully this post has helped. If you want to discuss your college plans with experts who specialize in tailoring a college admissions plan specifically for you, contact AdmissionSight today and schedule your free consultation.



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