How Green Is Your College?
Do prospective students really care if the schools they're considering are 'green'? According to The Princeton Review, they do - in their spring 2010 'College Hopes & Worries Survey,' the company asked 12,000 college applicants and their parents how much an institution's 'commitment to environmental issues' would affect their interest. Sixty-four percent said that it would have an impact on their decision, with students showing more of an interest than their parents.
This growing interest in environmentally-conscious colleges has been reflected in the rising popularity of green school rankings such as the Sierra Club's 'Cool Schools'. Rating schools on everything from energy-efficient facilities to promoting an environmentally-conscious culture on campus, they offer students yet another way to fine-tune their college decisions - and pressure other schools to start measuring up.
Rankings, however, tend to list only the top schools, making it difficult for prospective students to weigh 'green-ness' alongside other measures. In response to the need for more granular information, The Princeton Review started releasing their annual Green Ratings. Currently in their third year, the Green Ratings score each college on a scale of 60-99 based on environmentally-related policies, practices and academic offerings. Ratings differ from rankings in that they apply an absolute score to each school rather than a relative rank. Other ratings from The Princeton Review include academics, financial aid, admissions selectivity and fire safety.
However, The Princeton Review hasn't stayed entirely out of the green rankings game. In addition to the 703 schools with a green rating on their college profile, The Princeton Review has published a 2011 Green Rating Honor Roll. All 18 schools that made the honor roll received the highest possible score (99) on their Green Rating:
- Arizona State University (ASU) - Tempe
- College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME
- The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA
- The Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA
- Harvard College in Cambridge, MA
- Northeastern University in Boston, MA
- Northland College in Ashland, WI
- State University of New York (SUNY) - Binghamton
- Unity College in Unity, ME
- University of California - Berkeley
- University of California - Santa Barbara
- University of California - Santa Cruz
- University of Georgia - Athens
- University of Maine - Orono
- University of Maryland - College Park
- Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC
- West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV
- Yale University in New Haven, CT
Building a Green Economy
Although it's hard not to hear 'green' and think 'fad,' environmentalism in academia is a trend that may be here to stay. Schools aren't just changing their light bulbs to get a better rating - colleges and universities across the country have started incorporating environmental studies into their curriculum. Programs in green fields such as sustainability and renewable energy have cropped up alongside more traditional environmental sciences. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), over 100 majors, minors or certificates emphasizing sustainability were created in 2009. That represents a major increase in just a few years - back in 2005, only three new programs were created in the field.
And getting a green education may be as good for the economy as it is for the environment. Green jobs are even hotter than green majors, and the industry is growing. In early 2010, the Obama administration allocated billions of dollars for clean energy manufacturing projects, adding a push to the expanding fields of clean energy and sustainability. These areas have become growth markets that are seeing an above-average increase in jobs. The Pew Charitable Trust reports that the 'clean energy economy' grew by 9.1% between 1998 and 2007, compared to just 3.7% in traditional industries. And while the recession has hit this sector just like every other, green job predictions remain positive: The Obama administration has estimated that occupations in clean energy and sustainability will grow by 52% between 2000 and 2016, rapidly outpacing the rest of the workforce's predicted 14% growth.
The definition of a 'green job' is also expanding. In a recent interview with Study.com, Dr. Max Boykoff (Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder) pointed out that many corporations have taken an interest in environmental issues, hiring individuals who can help them 'green' their business. Governments, community organizations and NGOs are also major employers of experts in environmental science, clean energy and other green fields. As Dr. Boykoff pointed out: Choosing 'environmental studies as a major…is job security, because environmental challenges aren't going away anytime soon.'