Colleges with strong environmental programs

By Doug Moss and Roddy Scheer
Many colleges offer programs in environmental studies.
Many colleges offer programs in environmental studies.
Dear EarthTalk: I’m going into my senior year in high school and am looking for a college focused on sustainability where I can major in environmental studies. Any ideas?

-- Mike Mitchell, Oakland, California
    Depending on how deeply you want to go into environmental studies, there are many colleges that could meet your green-minded learning needs. A great place to begin your research is the Princeton Review’s annual Guide to 399 Green Colleges. The ninth annual version was released late last year and ranked the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, as the nation’s greenest institution of higher learning. Completing the Top 15, in order: State University of New York Syracuse, University of Vermont, Dickinson College, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Colorado State, Pitzer, Cornell, Randolph College, Stanford, University of California Davis, Seattle University, Santa Clara University, American University and Goucher College.
    In general, colleges made the top of the list if sustainability factored prominently in their academic offerings, campus policies, initiatives, activities and career preparation for students. Princeton Review tallied data from survey responses submitted by administrators at 648  colleges during the 2017-18 school year. Several of the survey questions drill down into the school’s sustainability-related policies, practices and programs, weighting more than 25 data points to create a green rating score on a scale of 60 to 99 for each college surveyed, with 399 colleges qualifying as green with overall scores in excess of 80.
    It’s no surprise that College of the Atlantic, established in 1969 as the first American college to focus primarily on the relationship between humans and the environment, has topped the list for three years. With only 350 students and 35 faculty members, small classes and focused learning are the norm at the school, which has been churning out environmental leaders for five decades. It became the first carbon-neutral college in 2007 and plans to be completely rid of fossil fuels on campus by 2030.
    Second place on the green colleges list is State University of New York Syracuse’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where students work with faculty on innovative solutions to environmental challenges and can apply what they learn in internships reserved for them with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
    Next on the list, University of Vermont has incorporated sustainability into campus policies and curricula for decades, but has recently shown renewed leadership with its sustainable entrepreneurship program and campuswide commitment to waste reduction and energy conservation. The university has been sourcing all of its energy from renewables since 2015, installing solar panels to make the most of the fleeting Vermont sun.
    Some other schools with excellent environmental studies and science programs include Antioch, Reed, Middlebury, Colby, Colorado College, Montana State, Evergreen State, Pomona, and the universities of Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In fact, today it might be harder to find a school with no regard for sustainability than otherwise, so you should look for a college where you feel at home on campus and then make sure the academic programs line up with your own green perspective.


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