A Guide to Green Campuses

As the college acceptance letters start rolling in this
February, there’s a lot for parents and their college-bound kids to
sort through when making the big decision of where to go. Here’s
one important question well worth adding to the list: Just how
green are the schools’ campuses?

In recent years, college and university campuses have proven
crucial leaders in the movement to make large-scale,
resource-demanding institutions more environmentally friendly. Many
have implemented projects that promote alternative energies, energy
efficiency, and environmental sustainability. But not everyone’s
jumped on the eco-bandwagon. So who’s doing what? When picking the
place you’ll spend the next four or five years (or, for parents:
the place you’ll send your child and dollars), it helps to know
which colleges are moving forward and which are slow to change.
Here are a few questions to ask, and resources to help you answer
them.

Does the college make the sustainability
grade?

The Sustainable Endowments Institute, a project of the
Rockefeller
Philanthropy Advisors
, has turned the tables on grade-givers by
handing out report cards to universities and colleges. With the
College Sustainability Report Card, the
institute evaluated 100 schools across the country on a litany of
green factors, such as ‘climate change & energy’ and ‘food
& recycling.’ More than a few universities were given an ‘F’
for a lack of public statements and for failing to make endowment
holdings or shareholder voting records available. Only four on the
institute’s roster received an A- (the highest grade earned).
Meanwhile, the
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability
in Higher Education
(an association of US and Canadian
colleges) is keeping a list of schools’ ‘campus sustainability
profiles.’ Check out the association’s site for its annual Campus
Sustainability Leadership Award winners, complete with links
detailing the schools’ sustainability projects.

Is the campus vegetarian friendly?
Scavenging for vegetarian items at a restaurant every so often is
doable, but having to scrape together a hodgepodge of meatless
items the entire four years at college can be down right difficult.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has
compiled
a list
of colleges the group thought did a stellar job of
providing vegetarian meals with diversity in mind. On the coattails
of the release of that list,
Slashfood added a handful of colleges
that had veggie-friendly college towns to make foraging for food
off-campus a bit more fulfilling for the vegetarian belly.

Does the cafeteria food come shipped in from miles away
or is it grown locally?

The Community Food Security Coalition’s
Farm To
College website
provides a map and a list of schools that
participate in programs that help facilitate a relationship between
universities and local farms. Taking the connection one step
farther is
New Farm’s guide to working farms on campus.
The project, funded by the
Rodale
Institute
, lists on-campus farms that provide hands-on,
small-scale farming experience to undergraduate and graduate
students (the site also provides information on programs for
children and the general public).

How effective are college activist
groups?

Another way to read the eco-friendly meter is to check out what
student-activist groups are doing on campus. Each year
Mother Jones posts a round-up of
college activism that merits note. Another great resource is the
Worldwatch Institute’s list of
Campus Greening Initiatives, which features
efforts like Macalester’s installation of green roofs on some
buildings. A group project called the
Campus Climate Challenge brings together
more than 45 youth organizations to support a long-term movement
to reduce pollution from colleges through upgrades and clean
power initiatives. The outfit’s website links to a bevy of
resources, with aids including everything from a map of schools
that have groups participating in the challenge to a
Power Directory‘ with tips on how to figure
out where your school’s electricity comes from.

Go there >>
College Sustainability Report Card

Go there, too >>
The ‘Big
10’ College Cafeterias

And there >>
Farm to
College

And there >>
Extra Credit: Campus Activism 2006

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