When I was trying to decide on which college to attend about a decade and a half ago, I found the process rather overwhelming. I didn't have any older siblings who had been there, and my parents apparently always assumed I'd go to one of the state schools they attended. It sounds supremely naive now, but I had no idea that different schools had different personalities, philosophies or cultures. I knew some were better at some academic disciplines and sports than others, but I didn't know how to figure out which school would really be right for me.
I also certainly didn't give any thought to which college might be the greenest, or which might have the most sustainable cafeteria. Heck, I didn't even know that different dorms tended to have prevailing cultures year after year, or that you don't need to get the "recommended" textbooks for a class, or sometimes even the "required ones"!
I bring this up because my interest was piqued today when I received an email about a list of top environmental studies programs from the 2011 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Although former New York Times Education Editor Edward Fiske has been publishing versions of his guides for 25 years, I wasn't aware of them. According to the author, his books are specifically aimed at explaining the real characters of schools to parents and prospective students, from details on the student body, to social life, and financial aid, as well as academics. (I can say from experience that it's important to not overlook the complete picture of student life.)
Fiske has combed through his extensive database of research to prepare a list of colleges he believes incoming high school seniors should give a serious look to. You'll note that several of these picks overlap with our more comprehensive list of greenest schools, which looked at operations of the campus itself, in addition to academic focus.
Colby College Located in picturesque small-town Maine, Colby provides a gorgeous, and rigorous, setting to study the environment.
College of the Atlantic When I was in high school, I thought seriously about College of the Atlantic, a small school in Bar Harbor, Maine, that offers one major: human ecology, defined as the study of our species' relationship to the planet. In 2007 COA was the first U.S. college to go carbon neutral, and it is a leader in green building, land conservation, organic food and elimination of toxins.
University of California, Davis - This research-driven campus is renowned for its innovations in the environmental, agricultural and biological sciences, including in green transportation and alternative energy. Overall, the 10 campuses of the University of California have set impressive goals of boosting the use of low- and zero-emission vehicles by 50 percent by the year 2010, generating 10 megawatts of renewable energy by 2014, and achieving zero waste and carbon neutrality by 2020.
University of Colorado at Boulder Boulder is a hotspot for green business and advocacy, and the surrounding landscape is a spectacular laboratory and natural playground. Add that to one of the most environmentally aware student bodies, and you get a deep green experience.
Dartmouth College The Ivy League's most rural school, New Hampshire's Dartmouth has been leading in environmental studies for years, thanks in no small part to the pioneering scholarship of the late Donella Meadows, author of The Limits of Growth.
Eckerd College A small liberal arts school near St. Petersburg, Florida, Eckerd has a waterfront setting with its own stretch of Gulf Coast beach. This makes it an ideal place to study the biodiverse, and imperiled, Gulf.
The Evergreen State College Honored as TDG's third greenest college, this school in beautiful Olympia, Washington, boasts a 1,000-acre campus that is 80% covered in woods, forest and beach. Evergreen has a 13-acre organic farm (the dining hall is called "The Greenery," and 35% of the food sold there is organic or local), and the school buys 100% clean power. It is also a leader in green building and electric vehicles.
University of North Carolina at Asheville Set in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains, this campus takes advantage of the progressive atmosphere and green amenities of Asheville.
Tulane University Tulane is a leader in academic and student life, and the New Orleans-based community stepped up its commitment to green and ecology in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
University of Washington A leader in the green Northwest, the Seattle-based school has won rave reviews for its green cafeterias as well as its academics.
In case you are wondering, I ended up going to Indiana University, and I studied environmental sciences. It worked out fine, but I didn't feel empowered or proactive about the decision, and the first year was a rocky transition.
P.S.: check out Carlton Hobbs Green.
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