U.S. Colleges and Universities Are Giving Fossil Fuels the Boot

One of the most threatening consequences of human-accelerated climate change is sea level rise. Thanks to our fossil fuel addiction, we’re spewing tons of carbon into the atmosphere, triggering higher temperature norms all over the world.

This hotter climate is taking its toll–and it’s more than just droughts and heat waves. New data from the University of California and NASA has led scientists to declare we’ve “passed the point of no return” in regard to Antarctic glacier loss–which spells big trouble for those of us who need water to survive (oh wait, that’s everyone!).

Meanwhile we’ve still got coal and oil companies, and climate deniers like the Koch Brothers, trying to convince us that fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline will be a boon for the planet. Total insanity.

Thankfully, somewhere in this mess of finger pointing and political posturing, a clear plan of action is taking hold. As I reported for Care2 in the past, the student-led global divestment movement is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it counts: the wallet.

“The push for divestment asks local governments, organizations and, perhaps most significantly, educational institutions to pull their money out of direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds. The initiative is based around the principle that it’s wrong to profit from destroying the planet and, in dozens of cities across America, it’s working.”

If you’ve got kids approaching college age, consider the fossil free schools below. Each one has made a commitment to divest from fossil fuels and embrace a clean energy future.

1. Stanford University

Just last week this Ivy League institution announced it will no longer use any of its $18.7 billion endowment to invest in coal mining companies. “The university’s board of trustees agreed with recommendations from a panel of students, faculty, staff and alumni that found investments in alternatives to coal would be less harmful to the environment,” reports Reuters.

2. College of the Atlantic

In March 2013, College of the Atlantic’s Board of Trustees accepted a student proposal to pull approximately $1 million in investments from fossil fuel-related businesses such as oil, gas and coal companies. The school admitted that supporting fossil fuels was in opposition to the school’s environmental mission.

3. Green Mountain College

Consistently ranked among the “greenest” colleges in the nation, it’s no surprise that it was the second school in Vermont to agree to divest. In May 2013, college trustees agreed to withdraw around $960,000 in investments from 200 publicly traded companies holding coal, oil and gas reserves.

4. Hampshire College

In 1977, Hampshire College became the first school to divest from apartheid South Africa. When it came to fossil fuels, they again stepped up in a leadership role. In December 2011, the Board of Trustees approved a new sustainable investment policy that effectively screens out fossil fuel holdings.

5. Naropa University

Following a unanimous vote by Naropa University’s endowment committee, this Colorado school announced that it would divest from any and all holdings in companies identified by 350.org as having the highest potential greenhouse gas emissions, based on their carbon reserves. “For more than fifteen years, the university’s endowment has negatively screened for industries such as weapons, nuclear power, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as companies with negative records in environmental impact and employee relations. Divestment from fossil fuels seemed a logical next step…,” explained a school press release.

6. Pitzer College

In April 2014, this school not only agreed to immediately divest from fossil fuels, it also committed to trimming 25 percent from the college’s carbon footprint by the end of 2016. According to the Chronicle, “the college’s investments in fossil-fuel providers amount to $5.4-million of its $124-million endowment. The college plans to sell $4.4-million of that amount by the end of this year.”

7. Prescott College

Recent graduate Kara Kukovich led the Divestment Initiative at Prescott College. Kukovich diligently prepared a report on the ethical, financial and environmental reasons for fossil fuel divestment at Prescott College. Her homework must have impressed the faculty, because in February 2014, they passed a Divestment Resolution to establish ”an investment filter to remove the largest 200 fossil fuel corporations listed by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, over the next 3 years, as a means to apply core values with a goal of reducing risk while increasing financial and social return on investment.”

8. San Francisco State University

In June 2013, San Francisco State University announced that it would stop investing its endowment in coal and tar sands companies. The university’s foundation, which oversees a $51.2 million endowment, also voted to investigate the possibility of removing all future investments in fossil fuels companies.

9. Sterling College

In July 2013, Sterling College, an environmentally focused, liberal arts institution located in Northern Vermont, announced that it had completed the divestment of its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. The school’s endowment is now invested in a fossil fuel free portfolio at Trillium Asset Management in Boston, Mass.

10. Unity College

In November 2012, Unity College in Maine became the first school in the country to commit to fossil fuel divestment as a result of the Fossil Free divestment campaign. “Those within higher education must now do something they have largely avoided at all costs: confront the policy makers who refuse to accept scientific reality. We must be willing to lead by example. Like the colleges and universities of the 1980′s that disinvested from apartheid South African interests – and successfully pressured the South African government to dismantle the apartheid system – we must be willing to exclude fossil fuels from our investment portfolios. We must divest,” said Stephen Mulkey, Unity’s President, in a statement.

Want to know how to organize a divestment campaign at your school? Resources are available at gofossilfree.org.

Image via James Ennis


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Teresa W.
Teresa W4 years ago


Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson4 years ago

Teach how to do it!

Brett Byers
Brett Byers4 years ago

Stop 1000 tons of CO2 emissions by saving acres of rainforest for the cost of a cup of coffee: https://www.rainforesttrust.org/acres-for-50cents/

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C4 years ago

I agree with Sue...Hope they are investing in the research of clean energy sources. As centers of learning who are privy, shouldn't they have done this a long time ago?

Sue H.
Sue H4 years ago

Excellent news.... hope they are reinvesting in clean energy.

Christine W.
Christine W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

N B.
Nancy B4 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se4 years ago