Some 89% of young people around the world say they can make a difference on climate change, according to a United Nations survey. Yet only 9% of youth are very confident the world will act quickly enough to address it.
A study at Iowa State University found that students appear to be interested in environmental topics, reducing their footprint, and improving the environment overall. In a world of limited resources and unlimited ingenuity, colleges and universities play an important role in preparing students to meet the sustainability challenges of the future, according to Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching.
The criteria for this list of greenest colleges from Princeton Review is superb sustainability practices, a strong foundation in sustainability education, and a healthy quality of life for students on campus. Princeton Review uses school-reported data and student opinion, collected in 2018-2019 from institutional and student surveys. They also consider how well a school is preparing students for employment in an increasingly green economy and how environmentally responsible a school's policies are.
Some of the survey questions delve into how much of the campus food is local and organic, availability of mass transit programs such as bike sharing and carpooling, the school's waste-diversion rate, LEED buildings, whether the school has an environmental studies major or minor and the college's plans to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on the Princeton Review's rating, these are the greenest colleges in the U.S.:
1. College of the Atlantic
Bar Harbor, Maine
This small, private liberal arts college awards undergraduate and graduate degrees soley in the field of human ecology. The campus is on Mt. Desert Island, surrounded by Acadia National Park. It became the first carbon-neutral college in 2007. Facilities include farms, an arboretum, herbarium, greenhouse, hatchery and a fleet of boats for traveling around the islands.
Photo: College of the Atlantic
2. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
The Newcomb campus encompasses over 15,000 acres of Adirondacks wildlands. The college's curricula focus on the understanding, management, and sustainability of the environment and natural resources.
3. University of Vermont
The university is the largest in the U.S. to ban campus sales of bottled water. It has a broad range of academics, but all undergrads take sustainability courses, and 25% of campus food is local, organic, fair trade or humanely raised.
Photo: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock
4. Dickinson College
According to Sierra magazine, which ranks Dickinson among its top "cool schools," students attend sessions on sustainable cooking and shopping, water and energy conservation, and transportation.
5. St. Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's City, Md.
A public liberal arts college, St. Mary's costs about $15,000 a year, considerably less than a similar, private college. Popular degree programs include psychology, biology, environmental studies, and political science.
Photo: St. Mary's College of Maryland
6. Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colo.
The campus sits at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Pictured is the Powerhouse Energy Campus, a green building and headquarters for the Energy Institute.
Photo: marekuliasz / Shutterstock
7. Pitzer College
Popular majors here include biological sciences, environmental analysis and organizational studies. Above, Robert Redford, one of the college's trustees, in 2014 after the board approved a new fossil fuel divestment-climate action model.
Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
8. Cornell University
Bill Nye the Science Guy is a graduate of Cornell University, and often teaches there.
9. Randolph College
This is a small, private liberal-arts college founded in 1891.
Photo: Randolph College
10. Stanford University
Stanford, near Silicon Valley, has a program in which students work to fund the purchase of offsets for all varsity sports team air travel. The university has 36 varsity teams, with over 900 student-athletes.
Photo: Dmitrii Sakharov / Shutterstock
11. University of California Davis
U.C. Davis has a small, sustainability-driven yurt housing community at known as Baggins End. The domes were proposed and installed by students in 1972 as an experiment in low-cost, ecologically-minded housing.
Photo: AlessandraRC / Shutterstock
12. Seattle University
Seattle University is a private, Jesuit-affiliated school.
Photo: Seattle University
13. Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, Calif.
This private Catholic University is located in the heart of Silicon Valley.
14. American University
American's 84-acre, carbon-neutral designated campus is located in northwest Washington, D.C.
Photo: American University
15. Goucher College
Environmental studies is one of the most popular majors here.
Photo: Goucher College
16. University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, Calif.
The U.C. Santa Cruz mascot is the banana slug, and the school has been named one of the most vegetarian-friendly in the country by CollegeXpress. Above, a complete blue whale skeleton on display at the university's Seymour Marine Discovery Center.
Photo: Matthew Corley / Shutterstock
17. Lewis & Clark College
A private liberal-arts college with a variety of academic degrees, including environmental law and environmental studies.
18. Loyola Marymount University
This is a private, Jesuit university with a scenic campus in Los Angeles.
Photo: Marie Appert / Shutterstock
19. Green Mountain College
This college of fewer than 500 students, which focused on environmental, social, and economic sustainability, shut down in June, 2019 due to the financial pressures of declining enrollment, according to the Boston Globe.
Photo: Green Mountain College
20. Colby College
Founded in 1813, Colby is one of the oldest private, liberal arts colleges in the country. Tuition and fees top $55,000.
Photo: Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock
Enrolled: 12,824Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attended Vanderbilt; he was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay foundations to counteract it.
22. Wesleyan University
Wesleyan is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Photo: Svineyard / Shutterstock
23. University of California San Diego
The Keeling Curve, a graph of the human impact on the environment, began with measurements taken by scientist Charles David Keeling in 1958 at the university's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Above, Fallen Star, an artwork by Do Ho Suh, is a skewed house perched atop the engineering school at UCSD.
Photo: Kapi Ng / Shutterstock
24. Middlebury College
The Middlebury College undergraduate environmental studies program is the oldest in the U.S.
25. University of California Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Popular majors here include psychology, sociology, and economics.
Photo: UCSB Library/Wikipedia
26. University of Colorado Boulder
In 2016, Business Insider called this university one of the top 25 colleges for students who want to change the world.
27. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The university has 26-story library, the tallest in the country.
Photo: Feng Cheng / Shutterstock
28. University of Connecticut
Every year the college hosts a Mud Volleyball Tournament, where players play volleyball in eight inches of mud.
Photo: Raymond Deleon / Shutterstock
29. University of California Riverside
The public college was originally founded as an agricultural research center.
Photo: Kit Leong / Shutterstock
30. Pomona College
This extremely selective and private liberal arts college is about 35 miles from Los Angeles.
Photo: Pomona College