For the seventh year in a row, Sierra has combed through data on everything from recycled napkins in cafeterias to LEED-certified buildings to rate the greenest universities across America.
One thing numbers can’t really capture is what the students are like when they graduate. Do they notice the native plants or solar panels or recycling bins around campus? Do ecology classes have an effect on someone’s habits once they’ve moved the tassel from one side of their graduation cap to the other?
“The most powerful renewable energy resource these campuses generate is freshly educated young people,” writes Sierra’s Avital Andrews. “And colleges crow that instilling eco-literacy — teaching youths about the state of our planet — will put us on the right path. Will it, though?”
Sierra thinks the answer is yes, citing heartening anecdotal evidence. There’s plenty of that — as just one example, consider a recent University of New Hampshire grad who started the Post-Landfill Action Network to keep all that dorm stuff from being thrown out at the end of spring semester.
These enterprising young people can develop a green ethos and desire to save the planet anywhere. But only 10 schools can be the very coolest of 2013. Once all the organic gardens, sustainability-focused courses, lighting sensors, facilities for bicyclists and innovations were tallied (among many other factors), these were the winners, in reverse order: