The Green Nitty Gritty: Whittling Down the College List

E Magazine, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

The Green Nitty Gritty: Whittling Down the College List


With all the posh accoutrements on campuses today, students are as likely to choose a school for its gourmet food and weight rooms as for its academic programs. The green-minded student has just as many factors to consider when facing the mountain of applications. Here are a few schools' green achievements to weigh when making your decision. Many colleges have hybrid cars in their fleets, recycling bins around campus and compact fluorescent lights. But others go much further, challenging the wasteful status quo:

1. Burn, Baby, Burn. This fall, Middlebury College in Vermont is set to start operating its $11 million biomass plant, which should cut the college's greenhouse gas emissions by almost 12,500 metric tons annually, with half the heating and 20 percent of its electricity provided by wood chips instead of fuel oil. The college hopes to kick start a local market for sustainable wood chips in the process--the plant will require 20,000 tons of wood chips a year to operate. CONTACT: www.middlebury.edu/administration/enviro/initiatives/energy/biomass.htm.

2. Grow a Greener China. In 2006, the Vermont Law School embarked on an impressive mission: strengthening environmental law and policy in China through a partnership with Sun Yat-sen University. The timing is critical: China has overtaken the U.S. in terms of carbon emissions and two-thirds of the country's energy comes from dirty coal. CONTACT: www.vermontlaw.edu/china.

3. Practice Farming. At the five-acre Outback Farm on the Western Washington University campus, students can grow anything (so long as it's organic!) in one of 40 available plots. Besides the community garden, the site boasts forest, herb and market gardens, the bounties of which are sold on campus and donated to a local food bank. CONTACT: http://outback.as.wwu.edu/frame2.htm.

4. Take a Bike! Many colleges have jumped on the community bike bandwagon, including Princeton University, Middlebury College, University of Maine, Utah State University, University of California Santa Barbara and Davidson College. For a nominal fee ($3 a year unlimited access at Princeton) or for free through programs like GreenBike at UMaine, students can commute around campus on specially designated red, green, yellow or blue bikes, making car-free travel an easy option. UVM gets extra points for its end-of-semester Naked Bike Ride.

5. Go Veggie. Warren Wilson College in North Carolina features the student-conceived "Cow Pie" vegetarian cafe. Maharishi University of Management in Iowa goes even further--all of its meals are organic and vegetarian, from pizza to stir fry. …

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