ByHaley Shapley

Oct 6, 2017

With more than 4,000 colleges in the U.S., narrowing down the options can be a daunting task for any high school student. Considerations like academic programs, extracurriculars, school size and location all come into play, and for the eco-conscious, spending four years at a place that values sustainability can also be a factor.

Although recent research shows that millennials don’t recycle, many young people are deeply concerned about the environment. So which colleges provide an experience in line with their values?, a provider of higher education information and resources, ranked the top 15 using data from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Here are the top five:

5 Greenest Universities

5. University of Washington

University of Washington. Photo: Shutterstock
  • More than 40 environmental student groups on campus
  • Grant opportunities are available to members of the university community who want to implement projects that reduce the school’s environmental impact
  • UW’s goal is to buy only 100 percent recycled paper

4. University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut dorms. Photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani /
  • A 25-person Environmental Policy Advisory Council reports to the college president on matters of sustainability
  • More than 20 buildings are LEED certified or registered
  • Dorms participate in an annual EcoMadness competition to see which building can use the least energy and water per capita over a given month

3. Sterling College

Sterling College conservation ecology. Photo: Heller
  • The school is specifically focused on environmental stewardship, with all majors related to this mission
  • student-run farm produces 20 percent of the food served on-campus, and much of the labor is performed by draft horses (as opposed to modern farm equipment)
  • On-campus barns are powered by solar energy

2. Stanford University

Stanford University. Photo: Martin Valigursky /
  • The university’s goal is 75 percent waste diversion by 2020
  • Almost half of the food served in Stanford’s 30 dining halls is either organic or locally sourced
  • The university offers nearly 500 courses on sustainability

1. Colorado State University – Fort Collins

Colorado State University – Fort Collins. Photo: Shutterstock
  • Home to the first solar-heated/air-conditioned on-campus building
  • Programs in ecosystem science, sustainability, alternative fuels, conservation and many more
  • Easy access to mountain biking, skiing, rafting and other outdoor sports

See the full rankings and methodology here.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.