Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

The Top Green Colleges in the G.E.T. Region

It is nice to see that there was at least one college in every state G.E.T. covers which made a key environmental list – the Top 20 Coolest Schools list compiled by the Sierra Club. Green Mountain College (GMC) tied for first place and is the second college in the U.S. to reach carbon neutrality. Middlebury College ranked #10 after hitting carbon neutrality in 2016. University of New Hampshire jumped 18 places this year and is ranked #2. University of Massachusetts at Amherst ranked #7 with its largest campus solar installation. Sterling College ranked #11, receiving praise for their program in which students at the school work on farms and forestland in exchange for tuition. Cornell University ranked #20 with its 36% reduction in campus emissions and 86% reduction in cooling energy.

Below are more details why these green colleges of 2018 rank at the top of their class

Green Mountain College students working on the Riverine Floodplain Forest Restoration plant an American elm along Vermont’s Poultney River. Image: Green Mountain College.

#1 Green Mountain College (tied with University of California, Irvine)
Score: 86.95 | Poultney, Vermont

The second college in the nation to reach carbon neutrality is aggressively working toward a new goal of powering its campus solely via renewable energy by 2020—with help from a student-initiated biomass facility and the purchase of carbon offsets from a landfill-gas-capture project. GMC has also tweaked its eco-centric core curriculum to better account for economic and environmental justice issues. New practicums have students examining the nexus of hunger, food, and homelessness in New York City and decorating the campus with a series of “What Is Social Sustainability?” posters.

#2 University of New Hampshire
Score 84.30 | Durham, New Hampshire

The home of the nation’s oldest endowed sustainability office embeds ecology into nearly all of its academic offerings. UNH has the very first eco-gastronomy major as well as a dual major that allows students to study sustainability through the context of, say, economics or Spanish. The Wildcats, who made an impressive 18-spot leap in our rankings this year, pipe methane from a landfill to campus, thus supplying 85 percent of campus energy needs. Considering UNH’s on-campus Amtrak stop, organic dairy farm, and food-waste-reduction system through which water is extracted from dining hall leftovers to be recycled before the food waste gets composted, eco-stewardship is clearly integral to the school’s ethos.

#7 University of Massachusetts, Amherst

UMass Pic: Nearly 45 tons of produce are grown annually on the student farm. Image: University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Score 79.07 | Amherst, Massachusetts

The home of New England’s largest campus solar installation is synthesizing its 400-plus environment-related courses into a new School of Earth and Sustainability, which will make eco-oriented resources, opportunities, and faculty more accessible while promoting collaboration across departments. All students and faculty can apply for support from the Sustainability Innovation and Engagement Fund. The fund helps underwrite an annual New2You back-to-school sale of recycled dorm wares, a student-run sustainable vineyard, and an organic CSA program.

#10 Middlebury College

Score 76.99 | Middlebury, Vermont

After reaching its carbon neutrality goal in December 2016, the overachievers of Middlebury were hungry for more. In January, the Panthers broke ground on a Sustainability Solutions Lab designed to source students’ most innovative ideas—for ways the school could source 100 percent renewable power by 2028, for instance—and to teach them how to seek support, calculate risks, and navigate the administrative challenges of effecting change. This year, Middlebury conducted an ecological assessment of its 6,000+ acres of forestland to account for flora and fauna as well as the lands’ cultural/anthropological value and recreational and aesthetic bona fides.

Sterling College students prepare seed potatoes for planting while a class prepares a hugelkulture bed, a permaculture technique for making a raised bed (background). Image: Sterling College.

#11 Sterling College

Score 76.86 | Craftsbury Common, Vermont

At Sterling, where most students labor on farms and forestlands in exchange for tuition (and produce upwards of 30 percent of food served on campus), the focus is on how best to steward working landscapes. So it’s fitting that students are putting Wendell Berry’s writing to work through a new partnership with the Berry Center, located in the author-activist’s native Henry County, Kentucky. Each semester, students have opportunities to go south and help cultivate a different landscape. Meanwhile, Sterling faculty is developing curricula for Kentuckians seeking to implement holistic and sustainable farm plans. Back in Vermont, students are learning the craft of woodworking using ecologically harvested timber at Sterling’s new Rural Arts Center.

#20 Cornell University

Score 74.47 | Ithaca, New York

Last year, Cornell launched Anabel’s Grocery, a student-run food supply providing low-cost access to local, organic, and culturally inclusive foods. It also broke ground on the Sustainable Landscapes Trail, designed to highlight 14 campus spots that showcase Cornell’s commitment to natural lands management (think rainwater capture stations, pollinator plants, and permaculture plots). Since 2008, this Ivy has reduced campus emissions by 36 percent and cooling energy by 86 percent, largely through proprietary innovations such as Lake Source Cooling—running a pump from one of upstate New York’s nearby deep lakes to pipe cold water through campus. The Touchdowns are now experimenting with Earth Source Heat, a new system that involves drilling into the earth’s upper crust and piping thermal heat through the often-chilly campus.

You can learn more about the basis of the rankings at

In August, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) released its 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. GMC and Sterling College achieved top spots. GMC received an overall top spot for its master’s program. It also received a top spot for sustainability in the categories of curriculum, air and climate, and investment and finance. Sterling College received a top spot for sustainability in the category of food and dining.

The full list of top performers is provided in the report at

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