The Top 5 Most Sustainable Universities in the World

If sustainability is an important part of your college search, you should check out these universities. Being sustainable is integral to each campus environment.

Despite the fact that Earth Day has come and gone, there’s no reason to stop being a friend to Mother Nature. In fact, many colleges across the globe work toward sustainability year-round. From using sand technology to regulate campus temperatures to harnessing the power of plants and farming, universities take amazing measures to ensure that our planet is respected and cared for every day. Sustainability has evolved into a lifestyle based on conscious decision-making as well. Not only are eco-friendly campuses great places for students who strive to live more sustainable lives, they show how easy it is to be environmentally sensitive.

But who decides how “green” these campuses are? UI GreenMetric World University Ranking is organized by Universitas Indonesia and was first launched in 2010. These rankings were created in response to universities that were unrecognized for their efforts in reducing their carbon footprint and fighting climate change. The criteria for the rankings are setting, infrastructure, energy, climate change, waste production, water usage, transportation, education, and research. UI GreenMetric also looks at indicators to help decide where each campus falls under each criterion. Take a look at 2018’s top five eco-friendly universities in the world, according to UI GreenMetric, and how they do their part to take care of it.

1. Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands

There’s a reason this university is #1. For starters, according to their website, Wageningen University reduces water wastage via graywater and a cooling system designed to use less water in certain buildings. Spring water also replaces tap water in multiple locations on campus. And it doesn’t end there. Wageningen University has a way to trap heat and cold in layers of sand underground that are used to cool the campus in the summer and warm it in the winter. They also use clean energy from wind turbines, biogas derived from dairy farms, and the plants they grow on their NIO-KNAW green roof, which also serves to collect water and control the temperature of the building it’s built on.

2. University of Nottingham, UK

It’s obvious that this institution is dedicated to cutting down on its carbon footprint. The University of Nottingham follows its own carbon management plan, last updated in 2016. One of the goals of the plan is to achieve a “40% absolute reduction from [its] 2009–2010 baseline” of carbon emissions as well as lower its energy spending, better its level of efficiency, and advance its own energy systems. Every year, the school posts a report of its yearly energy consumption and carbon production. According to their website, they have experienced consistent progress under this management plan.

3. University of California, Davis

UC Davis intertwines sustainability quite effectively into student life; it’s a perfect example of a school where “tree huggers” would thrive. The University’s website boasts at least 14 different ways in which it embraces sustainability. UC Davis vows to integrate “climate change and issues of sustainability throughout [its] curriculum.” Furthermore, by participating on the student farm, which supplies the Coffee House and other food services, students are taught how to grow food more sustainably. The University’s West Village has also accomplished becoming the biggest organized zero net energy community, which has been built to produce “all [the energy] the community needs, mostly through solar [energy].”

Around 25 of UC Davis’s buildings have been certified "green" by LEED, as well as the student housing buildings, which function under their Tercero Phase Three project. The project’s sustainable strategies include harnessing the power of steam to manage building temperatures and reduce water consumption. Finally, in order to reduce waste and pollution, UC Davis uses the Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester, invented by one of the University’s professors. This astounding invention can turn 100,000 pounds of waste into usable energy every day!

Related: 3 Ways to Live Sustainably on a College Campus

4. University of Oxford, UK

The University of Oxford has an Environmental Sustainability Policy that they strictly adhere to. They strive to decrease carbon dioxide production to 33% by the end of 2020 or 2021 and bring down their waste production and water consumption as low as possible. By implementing, “more efficient flushing mechanisms and ‘greywater’ where fresh water is not necessary,” the school comes closer to its goal each year. Cycling, walking, and avoiding driving a vehicle are all encouraged to students, as these transportation methods help lessen the emission of greenhouse gasses and campus traffic. Staff also opt to use video calls instead of traveling to recruit students, since air travel is one of the many air-polluting activities humans partake in.\

5. Nottingham Trent University, UK

Nottingham Trent uses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a model for how it runs its campus. The school is committed to recycling 98% of the waste it produces, and all new buildings must meet the rigorous BREEAM standards. In order to meet these standards, energy must be used to a measured efficiency, and the building’s activity must minimally affect the environment. The second part of the BREEAM requirements is partially achieved under the school’s environmental management system, which helps the campus decrease pollution and other harmful effects on the ecosystem. And with its established Campus Travel Plan, NTU facilitates traveling by sustainable means by “encourag[ing] sustainable transport use to all campuses and discourag[ing] individuals commuting by car.”

Related: Related: Colleges That Offer Studies in the Environment and Sustainability

Even if you aren’t considering any of these institutions, you now have a better idea of the kind of measures a university campus can take to be sustainable. Wherever your college career takes you, you can encourage your future campus to make similar efforts.

Find your sustainable college right here on CollegeXpress.


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