Best Value Green Colleges Methodology

To start our search, we compiled a list of approximately 320 U.S. colleges and universities that adequately met some standard for environmental consciousness. We took this list from Princeton Review’s selective “Green College Guide.” We then collected information on seven different indicators, which we selected based on our goal to discover the 30 colleges most committed to both sustainability and affordability. After we collected all the raw data, we weighted each category based on its perceived level of importance in our ranking. This gave each school an adjusted number of points for each category, which we then tallied to assign the institutions final scores based on their total points.

We also gave each school a percentage score based on its performance out of a maximum possible 410 points. You will notice that even the #1 rated school didn’t receive an “A” grade based on this methodology. That is not only understandable, but expected. In order to achieve even close to a 90% or above, a school would have to perform very highly across the board in all categories, plus offer rock-bottom tuition rates. Keeping that in mind, it’s actually quite impressive that some universities received scores above 70%. It also serves as a good reminder that there is always room for improvement.

The seven categories we used were:

Net Price: 20%
We took data for schools’ “net prices” from College Navigator, a government-owned website that reports statistics on American universities. We chose to use net price over tuition because the former option allows us to take into account a school’s final affordability, after it awards its students scholarships, grants, etc.

STARS Rating: 10%
The Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) is a subset of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The system ranks schools based on a number of factors, including academic courses, research, campus engagement, air and climate quality, building design, and much more. We assigned schools points based on the STARS award they received – Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, or “Reporter.”

Number of “Green” Majors: 15%
For this category, we simply counted the number of programs available at each institution that would appeal to eco-conscious students. This could include (but was not limited to): Environmental Science, Bioethics, Environmental Design, Sustainable/Green Architecture, Food Science, Nutrition, Horticulture, Marine Biology, Urban Planning, Ecology, Public Health, Environmental Policy, Natural Resource Management, Parks and Recreation, Environmental Engineers, Nonprofit with Environmental Focus, and Environmental Studies.

Research Centers and Institutes with a Sustainable Focus 10%
Similar to the previous indicator, for this category we counted the number of research centers and programs at each school that would allow an undergraduate or graduate student to explore “green” areas of interest on campus. We weighted this category slightly less than the academic majors score because while all students have to explore academics, we understand that not everyone has an opportunity or interest in research.

“Green” Volunteer Opportunities: 15%
We felt it was important to explore the opportunities environmentally friendly students would have to volunteer in the community surrounding their campuses. Again, we quantified this ability by simply counting the number of opportunities available at each institution. This might include a trip abroad, a student organization advocating for climate change, the chance to work in an organic garden, and much more.

Outdoor/Nature-Focused Recreation Opportunities: 10%
We also considered that eco-conscious students might also have an interest in communing with nature and engaging in activities that would help them build an even greater respect for nature. “Green” students are likely to enjoy backpacking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, and other outdoor sports that bring them closer to the earth they work so hard to protect. Just as with the other categories, we counted the number of activities each school offers. However, we weighted this indicator as slightly less important because, while certainly an indication of “green” passion, it has a less direct impact on sustainability on college campuses.

Environmental Policies on Campus: 20%
For this category, we explored each university’s true commitment to sustainability by ranking the environmental policies they enact on campus. Some schools have a clear-cut vision for environmental friendliness, creating strict goals for themselves to cut emissions or improve recycling efforts. Others enact “green” building practices and offer local, organic food options on campus. On the other hand, other schools make little to no effort to be eco-conscious, and/or their goals lack vision and clarity. We graded schools on a 1-5 scale according to their environmental policies, using this guide:

1. No information or no specific policies enacted
2. Declares intention to be environmentally friendly but any mention of policies/potential policies are vague and/or ineffective. Information is difficult to find.
3. Has made some attempts to improve sustainability practices, but these efforts are either lacking in quantity/quality or are too recent to understand their impact.
4. Clearly lists the initiatives in which they are engaged to protect the environment on campus, but the list isn’t particularly impressive in its size and the school has not received accolades for its work in this area.
5. Clearly lists a number of specific initiatives the school has taken to conserve energy, reduce waste, cut down on emissions, etc. Has won an award or received some sort of acknowledgement for their environmental policies.

We weighted this category as 20% of the overall score because we felt that it perhaps provided the best indication of a school’s overall commitment to going green.

To provide complete transparency, we have listed the entire final ranking below, including all 300+ institutions, their total points, and their percentage scores.

SchoolsTotal ScorePercentage Score
University of California–San Diego301.474%
Purdue University–West Lafayette296.572%
University of California–Santa Barbara286.370%
Colorado State University281.469%
Georgia Institute of Technology280.9569%
Stanford University269.266%
University of Washington263.864%
University of California-Irvine260.163%
Florida State University256.0562%
University of Arizona255.6562%
Northern Arizona University255.362%
University of Maryland-College Park254.9562%
George Mason University253.562%
West Virginia University249.961%
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point248.461%
New Mexico State University247.860%
State University of New York–College of Environmental Science and Forestry245.5560%
University of Vermont245.1560%
Southern Illinois University Carbondale244.760%
Unity College242.7559%
University of Illinois at Chicago242.0559%
Radford University24259%
Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge241.2559%
California State University, Chico240.359%
University of Georgia239.6558%
College of William and Mary239.4558%
State University of New York at Binghamton (Binghamton University)239.0558%
University of Arkansas–Fayetteville238.858%
Western Kentucky University238.4558%
Arizona State University237.758%
Iowa State University23658%
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill235.4557%
University of Iowa234.4557%
University of South Florida232.357%
University of California–Berkeley23257%
University of California, Merced23257%
University of California–Riverside23156%
Duke University230.5556%
Middlebury College229.4556%
Southern Oregon University22755%
Clarkson University226.855%
University of Florida224.6555%
Portland State University224.4555%
Penn State University Park224.355%
University of California–Los Angeles224.1555%
University of Hawaii at Manoa222.6554%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign222.354%
The Ohio State University–Columbus222.154%
University of Northern Iowa220.954%
The University of Texas at Austin220.454%
Grand Valley State University219.5554%
Ithaca College219.1553%
State University of New York–Stony Brook University218.553%
University of South Carolina–Columbia218.353%
Appalachian State University21853%
University of Alaska Fairbanks217.7553%
Ball State University216.5553%
Florida Gulf Coast University214.952%
Utah State University214.752%
Oregon State University213.8552%
Columbia University213.152%
University of Cincinnati212.9552%
Towson University212.852%
>University of Massachusetts Amherst212.352%
University of North Texas211.9552%
San Francisco State University211.5552%
University of Louisville209.2551%
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities208.851%
Michigan State University207.751%
California State University, Fresno207.6551%
University of California–Santa Cruz207.551%
Miami University207.4551%
Colgate University206.4550%
University of Colorado–Boulder205.4550%
Texas A&M University–College Station205.1550%
Harvard College203.850%
Western Michigan University203.350%
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay203.250%
Ohio University–Athens202.449%
Indiana University Bloomington202.3549%
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh202.2549%
The University of Montana201.2549%
Auburn University200.4549%
North Carolina State University199.949%
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona19949%
City University of New York–Hunter College197.8548%
Virginia Commonwealth University197.748%
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 197.648%
University at Albany – SUNY196.9548%
Western Washington University195.4548%
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor195.348%
Virginia Tech195.0548%
University of Oregon193.9547%
University of New Hampshire193.647%
Luther College193.5547%
Brooklyn College, City University of New York193.5547%
University of Rhode Island192.5547%
University of Minnesota Duluth192.3547%
San Diego State University191.4547%
Texas Tech University191.3547%
Northland College191.2547%
University of California, Davis191.2547%
Clemson University190.6547%
University of Houston190.646%
Wesleyan University190.4546%
Cornell University189.846%
California State University, Monterey Bay188.946%
Weber State University188.7546%
University of Maine188.646%
Boston University188.2546%
The Evergreen State College18846%
University of Missouri–Kansas City187.546%
University of Minnesota, Morris187.446%
Dartmouth College185.7545%
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University185.645%
University of Missouri185.345%
Southern Connecticut State University184.545%
Rochester Institute of Technology184.345%
Northeastern University18445%
SUNY College at Oneonta182.9545%
Berea College182.444%
Colby College18244%
University of Utah181.744%
University of New Mexico181.144%
Vanderbilt University180.844%
James Madison University180.5544%
University of Virginia180.4544%
Eastern Washington University179.7544%
Dickinson College179.744%
State University of New York at Geneseo179.644%
Macalester College178.644%
University of Notre Dame178.343%
State University of New York–Fredonia178.243%
University of Idaho177.4543%
New York University177.3543%
Bowling Green State University176.8543%
Western Carolina University176.743%
Old Dominion University176.643%
City University of New York City College176.3543%
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee176.343%
Colorado College175.9543%
Frostburg State University175.943%
Carnegie Mellon University175.7543%
Illinois State University175.143%
Indiana State University175.0543%
Earlham College174.0542%
University of Central Florida173.542%
Washington State University172.7542%
Northwestern University171.5542%
University of Delaware169.9541%
College of Charleston169.7541%
Florida Atlantic University169.2541%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology168.9541%
University of San Diego168.4541%
Georgetown University167.941%
University of Maine at Farmington167.641%
University of Tennessee167.5541%
Niagara University167.2541%
University of Massachusetts – Boston166.741%
Smith College165.940%
Brandeis University165.640%
Adelphi University165.0540%
Bucknell University164.940%
Santa Clara University164.540%
Temple University164.540%
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth164.2540%
Yale University164.2540%
University of Connecticut163.940%
Coastal Carolina University163.8540%
Berry College163.2540%
College of the Atlantic16340%
Emory University162.9540%
The University of Memphis162.9540%
University of Pennsylvania161.739%
City University of New York–Queens College161.339%
Marquette University161.239%
Babson College160.8539%
Guilford College160.8539%
Goucher College160.75 39%
Westminster College of Salt Lake City159.4539%
University of Mount Union159.239%
The University of Texas at Dallas158.639%
Agnes Scott College158.239%
Catawba College156.938%
State University of New York–Oswego156.5538%
DePauw University15638%
Aquinas College155.7538%
Chatham University155.7538%
Winona State University155.3538%
Georgia Southern University15538%
Johns Hopkins University154.938%
California Institute of Technology154.838%
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire154.4538%
Brown University153.938%
Green Mountain College153.838%
Vassar College153.838%
University of Pittsburgh–Pittsburgh Campus153.5537%
Elon University151.7537%
University of Richmond151.737%
University of Oklahoma151.3537%
Hamilton College150.6537%
Pomona College150.637%
State University of New York – New Paltz150.5537%
Wellesley College149.9537%
Tufts University149.6537%
Princeton University149.3536%
Pepperdine University149.2536%
University of South Carolina Aiken149.236%
Central Michigan University148.5536%
Davidson College147.85 36%
University of Mississippi147.8536%
Eastern Illinois University147.7536%
Western State Colorado University147.636%
Franklin and Marshall College147.236%
California State University, Channel Islands146.5536%
Bowdoin College146.5536%
Mount Holyoke College146.136%
North Central College14636%
Roosevelt University145.9536%
SUNY at Purchase College145.636%
Saint Peter’s University145.4535%
Mills College145.135%
Williams College145.135%
Eastern Connecticut State University144.8535%
Worcester State University143.8535%
Loyola University of Chicago143.435%
University of Miami143.135%
Oberlin College142.835%
Furman University142.6535%
Eckerd College142.4535%
Haverford College142.4535%
Montclair State University142.1535%
Allegheny College14235%
Swarthmore College141.5535%
Bard College141.2534%
Clark University140.534%
St. John’s University139.934%
Sewanee–The University of the South139.634%
Pitzer College139.3534%
Drew University13934%
Roanoke College13934%
Lipscomb University138.934%
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey138.134%
Syracuse University137.934%
University of Puget Sound137.934%
Villanova University136.8533%
California University of Pennsylvania135.833%
Maharishi University of Management135.433%
Washington University in St. Louis133.533%
Boston College133.333%
Shenandoah University13332%
Hollins University13232%
Hofstra University131.3532%
Salisbury University130.3532%
Denison University128.531%
Austin College127.5531%
Stetson University127.3531%
Keene State College127.331%
Lincoln University (MO)127.1531%
California State University-Stanislaus126.931%
Rowan University126.8531%
University of Rochester126.5531%
Seattle University126.431%
University of Chicago125.7531%
American University124.830%
St. Mary’s College of Maryland124.5530%
Virginia Wesleyan College124.230%
Linfield College124.0530%
Stonehill College124.0530%
Connecticut College122.9530%
The College of Wooster122.9530%
Ohio Wesleyan University121.2530%
University of North Dakota120.5529%
Prescott College119.729%
Illinois Institute of Technology119.4529%
Gettysburg College119.1529%
Kennesaw State University118.329%
Union College118.229%
Saint Michael’s College117.6529%
Whitman College116.7528%
Creighton University116.5528%
Messiah College116.4528%
Central Washington University116.428%
Pratt Institute115.3528%
The George Washington University114.2528%
Rollins College114.228%
Xavier University113.3528%
University of Dayton113.1528%
Marywood University112.3527%
College of the Holy Cross111.8527%
Lewis & Clark College110.927%
University of Denver 110.8527%
Moravian College109.9527%
Southern New Hampshire University109.1527%
Naropa University108.827%
University of La Verne108.727%
Suffolk University107.126%
Framingham State College106.226%
Randolph College105.626%
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania104.7526%
Roger Williams University103.8525%
Drury University102.0525%
Seattle Pacific University101.4525%
Champlain College10024%
Tulane University99.224%
Pacific Lutheran University9924%
University of the Pacific98.424%
Keystone College97.924%
The New School96.8524%
Warren Wilson College96.0523%
Kenyon College95.8523%
Hobart and William Smith Colleges95.6523%
Lawrence Tech91.322%
Ursinus College89.9522%
Lafayette College89.522%
University of Southern California86.821%
The College of New Jersey86.6521%
Loyola Marymount University85.8521%
Case Western Reserve University85.821%
Bentley University85.721%
Carleton College85.721%
Rider University84.2521%
University of Portland79.719%
Saint Louis University76.819%
Bates College74.318%
Endicott College72.5518%
Bennington College61.715%
Drexel University59.515%