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Getting An Eco-Education: America’s Greenest Colleges

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Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Often leading the environmental movement, universities and colleges have pioneered the facilitation of environmental and sustainability classes, majors and minors, have incorporated green buildings and infrastructure into their campuses and have become dedicated to green standards and community lifestyles. While many schools are now “going green,” the following are the top green schools at which to obtain a comprehensive environmental education through coursework and community involvement.

Warren Wilson College
701 Warren Wilson Road
Swannanoa, NC 28778
(828) 298-3325
warren-wilson.edu

Tucked within the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC, Warren Wilson College incorporates sustainable ideologies into its school’s service program by emphasizing environmental stewardship. With volunteer service embedded into undergraduate and graduate curriculums, students help manage a 300-acre farm and organic garden, a 700-acre forest and several riparian habitats on the property. To eliminate waste intended for landfills, students operate a “free store,” where community members can drop off their used items and choose from other people’s recycled items. With Environmental Science as a top major for Warren Wilson students, all students are unquestionably exposed to the necessity for environmental leadership and the complexity associated with environmental issues.
 
Green Mountain College
1 Brennan Circle
Poultney, VT 05764
(800) 776-6675
greenmtn.edu

A liberal arts college dedicated to environmental learning, Green Mountain College offers enrolled students opportunities for academics, community involvement, volunteer services and career options in the environmental realm. The core classes revolve around different aspects of environmental academics, including philosophy, science history, ethical citizenship, nature appreciation and ecology. Green Mountain College won the Second Nature Climate Leadership Award in 2011 for accomplishing carbon neutrality on its campus, only the second college in the United States to execute this objective. The campus is largely run by “cow power” by trapping and converting methane from excess manure provided by neighboring dairy farms. This not only reduces a potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, but also provides Green Mountain College with a dependence on a renewable energy system.
 
University of California
Campuses in San Francisco, Berkeley,
Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Merced,
Los Angeles, Riverside, Irvine & San Diego
universityofcalifornia.edu

Across the many campuses, the University of California Regents have adopted a sustainability plan that seeks to implement green practices and lifestyle behaviors in terms of “green building, clean energy, transportation, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing and sustainable foodservice.” In every category, University of California campuses will strive to not only meet the specified sustainable goals but also provide outreach to their students and integrate their communities into these objectives. For example, at UC Davis, over 75 percent of students, faculty and staff use alternative means of transportation, including walking, biking, carpooling, taking a bus or a train, and further planning intends to improve access for these methods. At UCLA, a collaborative student-run, on-campus farmers’ market occurs every quarter, the UCLA Student Food Collective organizes local procurement and distribution of food to interested community members and the newest dining hall will feature sustainable and healthy food, including numerous vegetarian and vegan options.

College of the Atlantic
105 Eden St.
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
(207) 288-5015
coa.edu

Located on 35 acres of coastal property in Bar Harbor, Maine, students at College of the Atlantic create their majors concentrated around human ecology studies. Without any departments, student develop course curriculum through interdisciplinary fields, ranking amongst the top 10 percent for students’ engagement in their education. Committing to zero-net levels of greenhouse gas emissions, College of the Atlantic pioneers the realm of higher education in terms of environmental dedication. The campus features a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, low-flow appliances and wood harvested from sustainably managed forests. Almost exclusively powered by renewable energy, students are exceedingly committed in pursuing even more refined and efficient renewable sources for their campus.

Oberlin College
173 W. Lorain St.
Oberlin, OH 44074
(440) 775-8121
home.oberlin.edu
 
Containing one of the most environmentally friendly buildings on a college campus, Oberlin College has committed to high environmental standards for its campus’ infrastructure and student learning. The revered Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies serves as a living lab for students by boasting a wastewater purification system, a greenhouse and a commitment to energy efficiency through rooftop solar paneling. Prioritizing environmental leadership, Oberlin core curriculum requires students to develop an understanding for physical environment concerns. Oberlin has committed to Carbon Neutrality by 2025, and new buildings and construction must align with LEED Silver standards. Students have ample opportunity to engage in green lifestyles, including the Oberlin Bicycle Co-op, the SEED house (Student Experiment in Ecological Design) and the Resource Conservation Team.

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Isabel Sepkowitz is a freelance writer. She is an environmentalist who values sustainability, education, and innovation for the emerging green economy. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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