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The Best Colleges and Universities for an Eco-Friendly Campus Lifestyle

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Top Recommendations

  • Arizona State University—Tempe (Tempe, AZ): The Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation supports many different initiatives on campus, including energy conservation, renewable energy, zero-waste policies, alternative transportation options, environmentally responsible food services, water conservation, and green building design.

    What students say: "The Arizona State University has a campus composting program that helps make them eco-friendly."

    "[Eco-friendly practices include] a carbon project that involves planting trees, transition to car-sharing and electrical vehicles, and using products manufactured in environmentally sustainable ways."

    "[You'll find] compost trash bins for food waste next to the recycling and trash cans around campus; investments in solar and clean energy on campus; dorm options that are designed to be more eco-friendly; Sustainability majors; and leading sustainability research."
  • College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME): COA became the first college to go carbon neutral in 2007. The College promotes sustainability through its curriculum, buildings, campus policies, farms, Zero Waste Club, and various energy projects while regularly ranking among The Princeton Review's "Top 50 Green Colleges" (#1 for 2024) and the Sierra Club's "Cool Schools" list.

    What students say: "The College of the Atlantic offers only one academic major: Human Ecology. It has the most eco-friendly campus because it has a strong commitment to sustainability as well as promoting whole foods."

    "This College is really small and most of their student body is comprised of nature lovers who want nothing more than to protect the Earth."
  • Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO): With a School of Global Environmental Sustainability, LEED-CI certification, solar panels, an on-site living compost lab, multiple STARS Gold and Platinum ratings, and a commitment to climate neutrality by 2050, the University has been named to lists including Platinum Bike-Friendly Universities, The Princeton Review's Green College Honor Roll, Bee Campus USA, Sierra Club's "Coolest Schools," the Sustainable Campus Index, and more.

    What students say: "CSU has a food recovery program to help reduce waste."

    "This campus is committed to reducing food waste through the creation of on-site gardens and compost bins."

    "They have an Agent of Change Initiative, which is interesting."
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, NY): In addition to eco-friendly transportation options and Platinum ratings from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Cornell offers 117 sustainability-focused majors, minors, and concentrations; 28 green buildings on campus; and 40 sustainability clubs founded by students.

    What students say: "We have an ecology house, which is specifically made for students to help with cleaner living."

    "Excellent programs in Environmental Sciences."
  • Stanford University (Stanford, CA): The campus is home to the Doerr School of Sustainability and Sustainable Stanford, "a University-wide effort to reduce our environmental impact, preserve resources, and lead sustainability by example across its three pillars—environment, economy, and equity." Students can also get involved in campus events that include a variety of environmentally focused seminars, classes, and exhibitions as well as the Living Lab Fellowship Program for Sustainability.

    What students say: "[There's an] environmental science initiative and research."

    "They recycle bottles [and] do not use trays in the cafeteria."

    "Their Chemistry major is very relevant regarding their eco-friendly campus because through this study, medicines can be created, ecosystems can be saved, and even formulas can be created to reduce waste."

    "Even their mascot is a tree."
  • University of California, Davis (Davis, CA): The entire University of California system has mandated sustainability goals for all its campuses. As a "global leader in sustainability and climate change research," UC Davis has an arboretum and numerous farms and greenhouses on campus as well as numerous sustainability-focused classes and majors, including Environmental Policy Analysis & Planning, Environmental Toxicology, and more.

    What students say: "Davis recently released a plan to transition to clean energy in the next 15 years; nearly a quarter of classes feature sustainability education; it’s home to many environmental innovations; the food is locally sourced, much of it grown on campus; and much more."

    "They mostly have bikes to not pollute the city."
  • University of California, Merced (Merced, CA): The University is ranked among The Princeton Review's "Top 50 Green Colleges" and made a Triple Zero Initiative in 2020 to have net zero energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste on campus. It met its goal and became the first public research university in the US to achieve carbon neutrality.

    What students say: "Based on the stuff I have [seen] here and articles I have read about this school, this place seems to really be built for eco-friendly purposes. Plus, it is in California, where the government is buckling down on citizens and eco-consciousness."

    "They have sustainability-related orientation activities."

    "They have strict energy conservation methods that surpass the state minimum efficiency standards by 35%-50%."
  • University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, CA): UC San Diego has implemented many features and programs on its way to zero waste and carbon neutrality. Dining and residence halls are LEED certified for their energy-, water-, and resource-saving designs.

    What students say: "The University has rooftop gardens that act as power-saving units. They also have multiple gardens around campus and the same sun/power-saving units on the Geisel Library."

    "There are dedicated clubs and programs for renewable energy sources, recycling, composting, and conservation."

    "[UC Davis is eco-friendly] considering the programs that are available at the school and the ties with the Scripps oceanography program."
  • University of North Florida (Jacksonville, FL): UNF is home to the Environmental Sustainability Living-Learning Community, where students can engage with the campus environment, local ecosystems, and beyond. In addition to participating in on-campus activities and events that encourage and promote sustainability, participants have the opportunity to go on planned nature hikes, kayaking trips, "meet and greets" with the Jacksonville Beach Sea Turtle Patrol, and more.

    What students say: "The school is built on a nature preserve, it’s pesticide-free to protect the bee population, and there is an organic garden that is available for students to tend to and grow their own produce."

    "It's very open. It also became the flagship school for campus design for all colleges in Florida because of its amazing botanical gardens."
  • University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point (Stevens Point, WI): Stevens Point boasts a 100% renewable-energy campus and was the first UW school to be certified by Bee Campus USA. Sustainability touches everything from green purchasing and the campus garden to the stormwater collection system and the Student Government's Sustainability Reserve and Green Fund.

    What students say: "They have a small campus, taking up less room and less people needing to drive. They have the best ecological majors in Wisconsin."

    "The best and most diverse natural resources college and programs in the United States."


  • Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA): According to the College's website, Dickinson is "one of only 25 schools in the nation to consistently receive a 99 green rating in The Princeton Review's Green Honor Roll." The campus is also home to the Center for Sustainability Education, an organic farm, an Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring chapter, and DsonMarket—a free online community created by a student for buying, selling, and trading goods and services on campus.

    What students say: "[They are] carbon neutral [with] zero food waste."
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, MA): The University has 148 LEED-certified buildings on campus as well as three megawatts of solar panel capacity, which is equivalent to 600 home installations. Harvard's goal is to be fossil fuel–neutral by 2026 and free by 2050.

    What students say: "They have a great sustainability program."
  • Northeastern University (Boston, MA): In addition to a growing number of academic programs related to climate change, the University is home to various centers and institutes focused on sustainability-related issues, including the Center for Renewable Energy Technology, the Coastal Sustainability Institute, the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, and more.

    What students say: "[They're] turning trash into electricity."
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—New Brunswick (New Brunswick, NJ): According to its website, Rutgers has "the largest solar canopy in the nation" that stretches 32 acres, providing 8.8 megawatts of power and translating to around $1.2 million in electricity. The campus also features several LEED-certified buildings, a single-stream recycling program, and one of New Jersey's largest living biowalls with over 70 plant species.

    What students say: "Rutgers has many majors within its School of Environmental and Biological Sciences that are aimed to help the environment. Being in the Garden State, there are tons of parks and eco-friendly initiatives around the whole state."


  • Bluefield University (Bluefield, VA): The University offers an Environmental Studies major and minor as well as sustainable dining practices that include a "Green on the Go" program with reusable plastic to-go containers and 100% recycled stainless steel flatware; recycling; trayless dining; 100% recycled paper napkins; fair trade/direct trade coffee; food made from scratch with less packaging; and local/regional products.

    What students say: "Bluefield offers many programs, organizations, and campus social events involving community garden cultivation. Most recently, a succulent planting event was held for the whole campus to participate in."
  • ERAU—Daytona Beach (Daytona Beach, FL): In 2023, Aura Aero partnered with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to prepare students to "fly zero-emission, eco-friendly aircraft of the future." Students and faculty regularly work together on sustainable aviation and hybrid engine research, while the Daytona campus was the first in Florida to offer an automated, on-demand, zero-emission food delivery service to students via robots.

    What students say: "The students use traditional or electric scooters and skateboards and rollerblades."
  • Emory University (Atlanta, GA): Students point to the WaterHub, a first-of-its-kind system installed in 2015 that can recycle up to 400,000 gallons of water every day (almost 40% of the University's total water usage on campus). According to the school's website, the plan is "to reduce Emory water use by 50%" by the year 2025, "including eliminating drinking water use for heating, cooling, toilet-flushing, and other non-potable uses."
  • Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN): The University has a Center for Energy Efficiency and a Clean Energy Initiative Committee that gives funding to registered student organizations and various University departments. Students can also take advantage of a wide range of campus, classroom, and community resources and opportunities, including energy education and training, scholarships, co-op positions, and internships.

    What students say: "[There are] lots of related majors and good landscaping."
  • Murray State University (Murray, KY): The University's Environmental Safety and Health Department supports programs related to hazardous materials and waste management, laboratory chemical reuse and recycling, used oil recycling, air quality compliance, stormwater pollution prevention, oil spill prevention and response, and more.

    What students say: "The Agriculture program plays a huge role in the eco-friendly campus."


  • Augustana College (Rock Island, IL): Ongoing environmental efforts include solar panels on several different halls and centers, a revamped campus recycling program, a reduction in dining waste, sustainable building and construction strategies, a butterfly garden expansion, a Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) Baseline Energy Project, campus-wide LED bulb replacements, and more.

    What students say: "They have Environmental Science majors who help design clubs and programs at the College to educate others and make the school more eco-friendly."
  • Chadron State College (Chadron, NE): In 2021, the College received a $483,500 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for environmentally friendly features in the Math Science Center for Innovative Learning, including energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems and lighting; drought-resistant grasses, shrubs, and trees; and special air quality and plumbing fixtures to reduce water consumption.

    What students say: "We have many clubs that are actively participating with the school to help recycling resources."
  • Des Moines Area Community College (Ankeny, IA): The College offers Horticulture, Environmental Education, and Renewable Energy Technology programs as well as a Food Forest and Community Garden, which produces food that's donated to DMACC Urban Campus students and community members. The space features more than 20 fruit and nut trees, upcycled vegetable garden beds, honeybee hives, perennial herbs and shrubs, native prairie beds, outdoor classroom space, and a small learning barn.

    What students say: "The Nursing programs reuse products for practice purposes. They also use solar energy along with wind energy."


  • California Baptist University (Riverside, CA): Students can pursue Environmental Science programs as well as minors in Sustainability and Environmental Engineering, while the campus features low-flow plumbing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and xeriscape gardening practices, light and temperature control sensors, solar power, and more.

    What students say: "[There are] recycling and bikes on campus. People don’t drive to classes—they ride scooters."
  • California State University, Fullerton (Fullerton, CA): In addition to a Sustainability Office that promotes carbon neutrality and resource preservation, the University adopted a Drought Response & Water Management Plan in 2022 and ranks among The Princeton Review's "522 Green Colleges."

    What students say: "They have a great garden that is economically friendly and has many programs to join."
  • Montana State University—Billings (Billings, MT): In an effort to improve sustainability across campus, MSUB's Housing & Residence Life office has taken steps to decrease the use of energy, water, and heat in dorm buildings while making recycling and student awareness campaigns a priority.

    What students say: "They have built a garden that students can take care of. Also, students can walk to class and lessen their carbon footprint."
  • Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ): The Office of Sustainability and the Sustainability Action Plan promote environmental stewardship to students, staff, and community members in several areas, including recycling and waste minimization, energy and climate change, research, and more. The University also charges a $15-per-semester "Green Fee," which goes toward a Green Fund that a student committee allocates for various sustainability projects across campus.

    What students say: "[They have a] Forestry major, trash initiative, [and] refuse organization."
  • San Jose State University (San Jose, CA): The University offers a variety of sustainability-related academic courses and programs in order to minimize SJSU’s ecological footprint. Students can also join the Green Campus Discord online group and support The Clothes Closet, which helps with basic needs and reduces waste generated by clothing.

    What students say: "[There are] new sustainable buildings [with} zero net energy."
  • University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA): According to the University's website, "54% of municipal solid waste generated by UC Berkeley is diverted from landfills through recycling, composting, donating, or re-selling."

    What students say: "They have a commitment to composting."

Source: CX Student Users

Want more information on how this list was compiled? Find out more about where our Lists & Rankings come from.

About This List

In an era where environmental consciousness is paramount, students are increasingly seeking higher education institutions that mirror their commitment to sustainability. That's why we're so excited to share this list of colleges and universities based on real student recommendations! These schools are at the forefront of the eco-friendly movement and are dedicated to creating a greener and more sustainable future. From innovative green initiatives to robust recycling programs, from energy-efficient buildings to majors and minors aimed at saving the Earth, these institutions not only foster academic excellence but also champion environmental stewardship. Whether you're an environmentally conscious prospective student or simply intrigued by the harmonious integration of academia and sustainability, get ready to learn more about some great institutions that are driving positive change within the educational landscape.

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