What Colleges Are Acing Sustainability

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recognizes institutions that have reached incredible success through their green efforts on campus and was created in order to advance college campus sustainability.  The association follows these efforts through the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, in which colleges and universities, by choice, report and track their sustainability efforts.  There are four different ratings in what is called the STARS system, including platinum, gold, silver and bronze, which are awarded to all kinds of institutions throughout the United States. There are several colleges that have been awarded one of these ratings, and therefore are considered among the country’s greenest schools.

Colorado State University is considered to be the greenest university in the United States. It was the first school in the entire world to be awarded the Platinum rating.  The campus was the first to have solar heating/air conditioning. They worked together with NASA to create a cloud-profiling radar system, entitled CloudStat, which tracks climate change and allows students to have unique research possibilities related to their very own energy consumption. The campus has programs in ecosystem science, sustainability, alternative fuels, conservation and much more!  In fact, sustainability related research is present in over 90% of their departments.Green Mountain College is a liberal arts college located right next to the Green Mountains in southern Vermont, which takes great pride in its sustainability efforts.

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Green Mountain College is a liberal arts college located right next to the Green Mountains in southern Vermont, which takes great pride in its sustainability efforts.  Within the college campus, there is a farm and hiking trails. It is one of the first universities to take on full climate neutrality and is considered to be the second most green school in the nation.  By 2020, it aims to divert 99% of it’s recyclable and compostable materials from the landfill stream.  Most of the campus’ heating comes from a biomass plant, which burns wood chips to create fuel.Colby College is one the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States and is located north of Augusta. They have an award-winning Environmental Studies Program in which students study oceanography and climate change.  In 2013, they became one of the colleges to obtain carbon neutrality.  In addition, they have a wood-fueled biomass boiler which reduces their oil consumption greatly, as well as a solar photovoltaic installation being built. And most of their campus is a wildlife management area with a bird sanctuary.

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Colby College is one the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States and is located north of Augusta. They have an award-winning Environmental Studies Program in which students study oceanography and climate change.  In 2013, they became one of the colleges to obtain carbon neutrality.  In addition, they have a wood-fueled biomass boiler which reduces their oil consumption greatly, as well as a solar photovoltaic installation being built. And most of their campus is a wildlife management area with a bird sanctuary.

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Stanford University tries to make sustainability as part of the overall experience at their institution. Their energy systems innovation program attempts to bring carbon emissions down by 68%.  They are also aiming to raise their water diversion by 75%.  They have over 20 green clubs, one of which is working on harvesting organic fruits and vegetables to donate to hunger-relief organizations.  Furthermore, approximately half of the food served in the university is organic and locally sourced, and they offer about 500 classes just on sustainability throughout all of its departments.

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The University of Wisconsin is the home of the Environmental Research Innovation Center, in which researchers test water, and develop renewable energy and work together with the university faculty to develop more programs in subjects such as environmental science, natural resource protection, as well as sustainability.  Together with the expansion of the campus, the environmental practices grow as well, with solar panels and green transportation methods.

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There are many colleges and universities throughout the United States who have seriously aced sustainability and only continue to do so in many different ways. Those that have yet to take on new methods can learn from these institutions. It is never too late to start to make a difference, and what better way to teach sustainability in the place we go to learn? It’s the least we can do to give back to our planet and try to sustain it for as long as possible.