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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges for Green Living

Springtime is here, everything is in bloom, and with that comes an emphasis on protecting Mother Nature we love so much! Colleges across the country are implementing more green technologies in order to have environmentally-friendly campuses, and for some students an emphasis on green living is an important aspect of campus culture.

In honor of Arbor Day on April 26, Dr. Kat has highlighted schools that are known for their dedication to sustainability, environmental preservation, research, and green initiatives. To build a balanced college list that includes environmentally-friendly campuses, from reducing energy waste to developing new technologies for energy conservation, here are Dr. Kat’s five schools for green living.

The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
With “green” in the school’s name, it’s no wonder that The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA is a top-choice for students looking for green campus living.

Founded in 1967, Evergreen has had a commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability since the beginning. The campus itself is a model of energy efficiency and green living, with the Seminar II and the College Activities Buildings LEED Gold Certified and the Longhouse, Library building, and Communications Laboratory renovated to non-certified LEED Silver standards.

Evergreen also boasts its own organic farm, which provides produce for the campus dining halls. Leftover food is sold from a farm-stand in Red Square, composted, and given to local food banks.

The school’s Residentail and Dining Services (RAD) Sustainability program helps inform the campus community about how to reduce its environmental impact, and also promotes green initiatives on campus. For example, the Bike Share Program allows students to rent bikes on campus for free, rather than drive or take public transportation that creates more pollutants. Other programs include a campus-wide recycling initiative and community gardens, where students and organizations can reserve garden plots to grow plants and produce. RAD also provides recipes and instructions to students who want to create their own green cleaning products.

Located in the Puget Sound region, Evergreen’s commitment to the environment and sustainability isn’t the only attraction at this public liberal arts college. Evergreen’s over 4,500 students have access to several recreation programs, with classes ranging from aqua aerobics to modern dance, and various student clubs, organizations, and events like the Evergreen Shakespeare Society and Humans v. Zombies.

Apart from its access to several parks, and the campus’s close proximity to Seattle and Portland, Evergreen is also known for its unique approach to education. Rather than taking specific classes, students enroll in “programs” that focus on a central idea or theme, and are taught by teams of different professors. Instead of letter grades, students receive detailed evaluations each quarter. These evaluations make up students’ transcripts, and provide extensive assessments of accomplishments and work ethic.

University of Maryland, College Park, MD
For a school where many students are conscious of the environment, the University of Maryland in College Park, MD is a great place for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint in multiple aspects of daily life.

UMD began its commitment to green living and sustainability in 2008, and since then the school’s Office of Sustainability has implemented initiatives that include composts, recycling centers, and energy conservation technologies. The campus boasts 2,600 solar panels, 200 occupant sensors in classrooms to reduce lighting when the rooms are not in use, and a complex stormwater collection system that is irrigated to on-campus plant beds.

For two years the school also held the Green Greek Challenge, where fraternities and sororities competed for 8 weeks to see which house on campus could save the most energy and water. Over the course of the challenge, participating houses reduced electricity usage by 12%, saved over 217,000 lbs. of CO2, and reduced energy costs by $16,240.

Considered one of the “public ivies,” UMD’s campus is just eight miles from Washington, DC, and offers over 100 majors to its more than 26,800 undergraduate students. It is known as one of the country’s premier research universities, and the campus is home to over 800 student clubs and organizations.

UMD is also known for its living and learning programs, including the Jimenez-Porter Writer’s House and the Language House. In these programs students live together and participate outside the classroom in activities geared toward creating a deeper understanding of academic concepts and interests.

College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
Smaller schools may not leave as big of a carbon footprint as large universities, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for green improvements. At College of the Atlantic, students take pride in the lasting impact that their small community is having on large-scale green initiatives.

COA is a school of “firsts” when it comes to green living. It was the first college to hold a zero-waste graduation ceremony and the first carbon-neutral campus. The Kathryn W. Davis Student Residences are the first of their kind on COA’s campus with incredible green innovations. These sustainable amenities include motion-senor lighting, 12-inches of recycled insulation in the walls to conserve hot and cool air, and a shower heat recovery system to reduce the amount of hot water used.

Conservation, green technology, and sustainability aren’t just present in the physical buildings. These initiatives are incorporated into the curriculum, too. Courses at COA encourage discussion and ideas about sustainability and climate change. Classes geared directly toward environmental education and awareness include Global Environmental Politics: Theory and Practice, Climate Change, Environmental Law and Policy, and Contemporary Social Movement Strategies.

At the urging of students, COA also recently committed to selling all investments in fossil fuel-related holdings, at a value of about $1 million.

COA, located in Bar Harbor, ME, is a unique institution outside of its commitment to green living. The school offers one degree to its 350 undergraduate students, a B.A. in human ecology. Students are able to construct their own “majors” and incorporate course offerings in arts and design, environmental sciences, and human studies.

The campus is perfect for nature enthusiasts, located just minutes from Acadia National Park, and there are several outdoors gear suppliers throughout town that stay open year-round for students who seek adventure during the winter months.

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
As a large school with a large eco-footprint, Arizona State University has put sustainability at the forefront of academic pursuits, with a focus on educating students to become practical problem-solvers for environmental issues in the world now and in the future.

The School of Sustainability at ASU is the first degree-granting program with a focus on finding real-world solutions to environmental issues. Students can earn either a B.A. or B.S. in sustainability through this program, and students are required to complete an internship, research project, or service learning experience relating to their major.

Even the School of Sustainability’s building is a model of ASU’s dedication to green initiatives, renovated with certified green or recycled materials, plumbing that reduces water consumption by 30%, and wind turbines and solar panels for clean energy production.

Other green living and learning initiatives at ASU include 66 solar panel installations, a campus-wide recycling program that collects over 800 tons of recyclables each year, and energy-conservation programs including computer energy-conservation efforts.

Located in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, AZ, this public research university has the largest student body in the US, with over 58,000 undergraduates. Along with such a large student body comes extensive student life opportunities. ASU boasts four campuses across the Phoenix area, 493 classrooms, and over 1,100 student clubs and organizations.

When they’re not saving the environment, ASU students also give back to their community with the annual “Devils in Disguise” day of service. It’s the school’s largest organized day of service, which includes over 45 student clubs from all four campuses. During the last “Devils in Disguise,” student volunteers donated over 1,500 hours of service to more than 25 different community service projects.

Berea College, Berea, KY
Consistently rated as one of the country’s greenest colleges, Berea College in Kentucky is home to a hands-on living and learning community based on sustainability.

Berea’s Ecovillage is made up of residential buildings, a recreational meeting building, and various eco-facilities and labs. The Ecovillage’s goal is to reduce energy use and water use by 75% each, as well as compost at least 50% of waste and treat water on-site to swimmable quality.

The Ecovillage is also home to the school’s Sustainability and Environmental Studies (SENS) House, which is almost completely self-reliant for energy, water, and waste treatment with the help of various technologies and conservation initiatives.

Ecovillage residents are responsible for maintaining a sustainable community, and participate in various projects, including carpooling, composting, gardening, and developing green cleaning supplies, in an effort to create a sustainable living model.

At this small liberal arts college in Berea, KY, there is no tuition for the school’s over 1,600 undergraduate students. Students can choose from 32 majors, and all entering freshman receive new laptops, which they get to keep after graduation. The campus spans over 140 acres and includes 14 residence halls and nine specialty houses.

All full-time students participate in Berea’s Student Labor Program as part of the school’s mission to foster service and work-based learning. Students work a minimum of 10 hours a week in over 100 departments in areas including student services and faculty assistance.

Whether it’s reducing waste, conserving energy, or producing their own power, these schools are great examples of green living. Other schools that have made a commitment to becoming green and environmentally conscious are Duke University, Warren Wilson College, UCLA, and Harvard University. Be sure to take a look at these green schools when developing your college list. We wish you the best of luck in your college search!

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