Campuses Committed to Saving the Environment: 14 Colleges Leading the Charge in Conservation and SustainabilityBy Joy Liwanag
In the pursuit of a sustainable future, an increasing number of college-bound students are seeking institutions that are committed to conservation and environmental stewardship.
As climate change becomes a pressing global issue, these students are making conscious decisions to align their academic pursuits with institutions that prioritize sustainability. Fortunately, there are colleges and universities across the United States that have not only embraced this responsibility but have also taken significant steps to reduce their negative environmental impact.
Here, we highlight 14 such institutions that stand out for their dedication to conservation:
ASU launched the "Carbon Project" in June 2018, focusing on mitigating carbon emissions through tree planting initiatives and creating a Carbon Sink and Learning Forest. ASU has successfully reduced single-occupancy vehicle travel below 60% for students, faculty, and staff, showcasing its commitment to sustainable commuting.
Sustainability is a core value at Bowdoin College, with a climate action plan aiming for a net-zero carbon emissions campus by 2042. The college invests over $100 million in this endeavor and engages students in eco-friendly practices, such as an annual eco-service day and a residence hall competition to reduce energy usage.
Bucknell University is dedicated to environmentally friendly dining initiatives, implementing waste reduction, sustainable packaging, and sourcing local, sustainable, and humane food. Their five-acre farm not only provides produce to dining halls but also offers educational opportunities for students interested in sustainable agriculture.
As the first U.S. college to sign the Break Free From Plastic pledge in 2019, the College of the Atlantic is committed to eliminating on-campus use of nonessential, disposable, single-use plastic products. Additionally, the college has initiated divestiture from fossil fuel-related companies, with a goal to eliminate campus fossil fuel use by 2030.
To minimize food waste and support those lacking access to healthy food, Colorado State University has implemented a "food recovery" program. The university also runs an Eco Leaders Peer Education program, encouraging environmentally responsible behaviors among residential students.
Having achieved net zero emissions in 2020, Dickinson College remains committed to eco-friendliness. In 2022, the college signed Second Nature's "Resilience Commitment," focusing on making campuses and communities resilient to climate change. Sustainability courses are also a requirement for students.
Florida Gulf Coast University mandates undergraduates to take a semester-long, writing-intensive course on various environmental concerns. The course involves field experiences, fostering discussions and potential solutions to sustainability challenges.
Responding to Pope Francis' climate call, Seattle University has committed to the "Seven-Year Journey Towards Integral Ecology." The university aims to integrate integral ecology across curriculum and research, achieve climate neutrality, practice socially responsible consumption, and develop a sustainable campus climate.
Sustainability is a core mission at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, with various initiatives like plastic-free vending machines, green roofs, a student garden, and waste prevention during move-out day. The college is dedicated to educating future environmental leaders.
UC-Irvine converted its central plant to a system that uses more recycled water, saving over 80 million gallons of drinkable water per year. The University of California system has committed to fully decarbonizing all its campuses by 2045, achieving a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2019, the University of Connecticut implemented a general education requirement for undergraduates to complete at least one three-credit course related to the environment. The university aims to improve environmental literacy through courses like "Global Climate Change and Human Societies."
The University of Dayton offers sustainability degrees for undergraduates, with a campus featuring a "solar prairie" - an eight-acre lawn with solar panels and prairie plants for research and internships. The university has also installed solar panels, contributing to campus power consumption.
The University of New Hampshire claims to use two-thirds less of the carbon pollution than other campuses. Having already achieved a 50% reduction in emissions by 2019, the university aims to further reduce primary emissions by 2030 to 75% below its 2010 levels.
Encouraging sustainable transportation methods, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point became the first certified Bee Campus USA school in the Universities of Wisconsin system. This initiative aims to protect pollinators on college campuses, emphasizing the importance of biodiversity.
As college-bound students embark on their educational journeys, institutions that prioritize conservation and sustainability are increasingly becoming sought after. These 14 colleges and universities are leading the way, demonstrating that commitment to environmental stewardship can be woven into the fabric of higher education.