Top 10 Greenest Colleges in the United States

Students of all ages are returning to the classroom in droves this week. In celebration, the Sierra Club released its annual list of the “Top 10 Coolest Schools.”

No, this isn’t a ranking of best places to attend a house party or professors most likely to give you a second extension on your Lit. paper. Instead, it’s a list of colleges and universities using every means at their disposal–from LEED construction to student-led initiatives for fossil fuel divestment–to make this world a cleaner, greener place.

The result of these efforts is not only reduced carbon emissions and an environmentally-friendly learning space. These schools are helping to educate and mold tomorrow’s environmental leaders, something that will be sorely needed in an age of drastic climate change and pollution.

Without further ado, here are America’s Top 10 Greenest Colleges:

10. University of California, Santa Barbara

Image via Carl Jantzen

Green highlights: 44 LEED certified buildings, 50% of food served is local; 75% of waste gets saved from the landfill via recycling and composting; and 10 on-campus photovoltaic solar systems.

9. American University, Washington D.C.

Image via American University

Green highlights: 30 buildings on track for LEED Silver certification; a 27-kilowatt solar array; D.C.’s biggest solar hot-water system; and a device called the Vegawatt, which turns old cooking oil into electricity.

8. Georgia Institute of Technology

Image via Georgia Tech

Green highlights: A wide range of eco-transit options, from carpooling to mass transit; natural gas–powered buses; named a Tree Campus USA for its 25% arboreal cover; and a 1.4-million-gallon stormwater cistern helps conserve helps conserve water.

7. Stanford University

Image via Stanford University

Green highlights: 700-plus sustainability-related classes; 66% waste-diversion rate; and currently building a new energy facility that will halve the 8,180-acre campus’s CO2 emissions and cut its water use by almost a fifth.

6. Green Mountain College, Vermont

Image via Green Mountain College

Green highlights: One of the first U.S. universities to achieve climate neutrality; 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of its annual energy from cows (methane capture); LEED-certified classrooms; and a plethora of environmentally-focused classes.

5. Cornell University

Image via Cornell University

Green highlights: Greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 25% over the past two years; campus features two stunning gorges, a 35-acre botanical garden and a 100-acre arboretum; and school officials pledge that Cornell will be a net-zero-carbon campus by 2050.

4. University of California, Davis

Image via UC Davis

Green highlights: An agressive climate action plan has already cut campus emissions to below year-2000 levels; 60% of would-be trash from landfills through recycling, reuse and composting; and weekly on-campus farmers’ market.

3. University of California, Irvine

Image via Mikejuinwind123

Green highlights: Campus solar panels generate enough power to run 500 homes for a year; 6-acre botanical garden; and all new buildings must be certified at least LEED Silver.

2. Dickinson College, Pennsylvania

Image via Dickinson College

Green highlights: School buys enough wind power to offset all of its electrical needs; students collect grease from local restaurants and turn it into biodiesel; cafeterias serve student-grown produce; and plans to achieve achieve zero net emissions by 2020.

1. University of Connecticut

Image via UConn

Green highlights: 600 sustainability-related classes; 13 buildings retrofitted to prevent 2,640 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually; and 30% of meal options are vegetarian, with many ingredients grown on campus.

Do you know someone who’s attending one of these green gems? Share it in the comments!

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Lead image via Thinkstock


Heidi R.
Past Member 4 years ago

Kudos to them all. Let's hope more colleges and universities will also join in going green and greener.

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Such environment would nurture more eco-friendly young charms

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago


Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Beth, for Sharing this!

Anne G.
Anne G4 years ago

Great, very inspiring.

Angela Ray
Angela Ray4 years ago

This is awesome!! These institutions will hopefully be an inspiration to everyone.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago

Good to know.

Ana Marija R.
ANA MARIJA R4 years ago

copy&paste Ron B.

Liliana Garcia
Liliana G4 years ago

Interesting. Thanks.