The school year is rapidly winding down, and summer vacation is just around the corner. If you're like this witty Canadian valedictorian candidate, you may be giving a moment to pause and reflect on the future of your classmates and your ivy-covered institution. So it's a good time to think about ways in which North America's world-famous centers of higher learning can show leadership in leaving a lighter impact upon our threatened planet.
Of course, it's also a good time for high schoolers to give serious thought, if they haven't already, to where they will be matriculating if they choose to pursue more book learnin'. Since "prospies," as perspective students are commonly known, are already well clued into various college ranking systems (Peterson's, U.S. News and World Report and others), it's no surprise that various organizations would attempt to rate campuses based on their green cred.
Colleges can be as large as small cities, and therefore use a tremendous amount of resources, plus they have strong potential to mold the minds of the next generation of leaders.
In 2007 Grist released an editorial ranking of top green colleges, and this year the Kentucky-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education launched a pilot program to rate 90 U.S. and Canadian colleges on environmental impact.
It's called Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), and is designed to be a voluntary, self-reporting framework for gauging progress toward sustainability. It is associated with the group's Chill Out Competition to reduce global warming contributions, and the comment period ends May 30.
Until that ranking becomes available, prospies may want to check out this informative post on the blog of major student loan lender NextStudent. It's a summary of 12 of the greenest colleges in America, including many that have been honored in the past by other groups. The top 6 are:
1) College of the Atlantic - Bar Harbor, Maine
This tiny college offers just one course of study: human ecology. It was the first U.S. college or university to go carbon neutral.
2) Middlebury College - Middlebury, Vermont
The home of green author and lecturer Bill McKibben, Middlebury is well known for pushing the envelope with green building, waste reduction and other sustainable initiatives.
3) Evergreen State College - Olympia, Washington
Home to a 13-acre organic farm and compost facility, and powered with clean energy, even the name of this famously progressive school says green.
4) Oberlin College - Oberlin, Ohio
Home to eco-pioneer David Orr, Oberlin tracks water and energy use at each dorm, boasts solar panels and hosts one of the world's most famous and innovative green buildings.
5) Harvard University - Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard has been leading with energy efficiency and bio-fuels, as well as other programs.
6) Warren Wilson College - Swannanoa, North Carolina
Warren Wilson College is almost entirely self-supporting, getting its food and lumber from farmland and gardens managed by school employees in order to reduce shipping. The school has also worked for energy efficiency.
Go to NextStudent to find out more about each school, and view the other six colleges.
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