Updated December 6, 2022

By Iris Stone Published February 2015 In this article, we examine best values in green colleges - colleges and universities who are at the forefront in environmentally sustainable practices. In the past 30 years or so, many people have taken an interest in environmentalism and sustainability. This is in response to a flood of studies ...

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By Iris Stone

Published July 2020

In this article, we examine best values in green colleges - colleges and universities who are at the forefront in environmentally sustainable practices.

In the past 30 years or so, many people have taken an interest in environmentalism and sustainability. This is in response to a flood of studies by scientists showing that climate change is a serious global issue. Information about the depleting ozone layer, melting ice caps, and our dwindling natural resources have encouraged many countries around the world to start taking action. Private corporations have gotten involved too, and we've all benefited from electric cars, solar panels, eco-friendly cleaning products, and more.

Most agree that there's still a lot of work to do in the United States before we can truly consider ourselves "green." Many U.S. universities have committed themselves to doing their part. Some schools in particular boast an impressive list of sustainable policies, student volunteer opportunities, and low-impact building practices that will appeal to environmentally-conscious students.

If you're getting ready to apply to college and consider environmental friendliness a priority, this list is a great place to start. Of course we always place emphasis on the schools the "best value," and so have considered their affordability when doing our research as well. The result is a list of the 30 Best Value Green Colleges in the United States.


In short, we considered seven categories when ranking schools: Net Price; Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) Ranking; Number of "Green" Majors; Number of Research Centers and Institutes with a Sustainable Focus; "Green" Student Volunteer Opportunities; Outdoor/Nature-Focused Recreational Activities; and Quality/Quantity of Environmental Policies on Campus. For more information about the comprehensive methodology we used, click here. On our methodology page, you can also see a full list of the more than 300 schools we researched, as well as their scores.

In the mean time, read below to see the 30 highest scoring schools in our ranking. We start with #30 and leave you with the #1 school, and you'll notice along the way that we've included each institution's net price, total awarded points, and percent score for each institution.

#1 University of California - San Diego La Jolla, CA
#2 Purdue University Hammond, IN
#3 University of California - Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
#4 Colorado State University Greenwood Village, CO
#5 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA
#6 Stanford University Stanford, CA
#7 University of Washington Bothell, WA
#8 University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA
#9 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
#10 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ

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  1. University of California - San Diego

    La Jolla, CA



    UC San Diego tops our list of the best green colleges in the country because of its all-around commitment to sustainability, demonstrated in its 12 green majors, three research centers, numerous volunteer opportunities, and a multitude of environmentally-friendly recreational activities. Student organizations cover a wide range of eco-friendly interests, including The Sustainable Food Project, The Renewable Energy Society, and Global Water Brigades. Hard-working UCSD students have opportunities year-round to refresh and recharge with Outback Adventures trips kayaking in Mission Bay or rock-climbing at Joshua Tree National Park. Among the many accolades of this affordable green college are a "Gold Rating" for Sustainability and a "Greenest College in the U.S. and Canada" distinction from Princeton Review.

  2. Purdue University

    Hammond, IN



    This affordable green college earned an impressive Silver STARS ranking for sustainability with more than a dozen green research centers, majors, and volunteer opportunities. Students may choose from many environmental programs, including Soil and Hydrologic Sciences, Biological Engineering, and Natural Resources. The Purdue Arboretum has many outdoor learning spaces, including a 24-acre Horticultural Park, a garden with over 200 species of perennial flowers, and a natural amphitheater. Environmentally conscious Purdue students volunteer their time in the Electric Vehicle Club, the Boiler Green Initiative, and Engineers for a Sustainable World. The university recently received a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for its biofuel research project.

  3. University of California - Santa Barbara

    Santa Barbara, CA



    UC Santa Barbara earns high rankings for sustainable student involvement, with more than fifty clubs and organizations dedicated to environmentalism. Among the more unique clubs are Bee Conscious, dedicated to the preservation of bees, and the Department of Public Worms, dedicated to composting. UCSB Adventure Programs encourages students, educators, and staff alike to enjoy the beauty of Santa Barbara while kayaking, canoeing, and backpacking. The university boasts many sustainability successes in the past year, including the installation of nearly 3,000 solar panels, reduction of natural gas usage by 15%, and irrigation of nearly the entire campus with recycled water.

  4. Colorado State University

    Greenwood Village, CO



    This Gold STARS ranked university has been a pioneer in alternative energy solutions since the 1960s. Colorado State University boasts many environmental firsts, including creating the world's first engineered solar-powered building and offering green power to its students. Winner of the Arbor Day Foundation's Favorite Tree Campus USA contest, the university offers unique majors like the Master of Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting, Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism, and Rangeland Ecosystem Science. The Outdoor Program offers more than fifty green trips and events annually. Students also can get involved by interning as a Bike Patrol Park Ranger or doing community service on a 12 Day Educational Adventure Program in Costa Rica.

  5. Georgia Institute of Technology

    Atlanta, GA



    Environmentally conscious students at the Georgia Institute of Technology can become part of the "Green Buzz" by cooking local foods, improving the local bicycle infrastructure, and hosting events for the Energy Club. In addition to the many available student organizations, the university hosts green campus events, such as the Clean Energy Speaker Series, Earth Day, and Tech Beautification Day. Traversing campus is easy with BikeGT, carpooling, and car sharing options. The schools offers "green" courses in Energy Policy, Environmental Ethics, and Sustainable Systems, also giving students access to 23 research centers that support major sustainability. This affordable green college stays beautiful with green cleaning, the GameDay Recycling Program, and drought-tolerant vegetation.

  6. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA



    Stanford University encourages students of all majors to go Cardinal Green with organizations like the Environmental Law Society, Engineers for a Sustainable World, and the Environmentally Sustainable Business Club. When Stanford students need a break from working on environmentally conscious projects like the Solar Wind and Energy Project and the Solar Car Project, they can spend their downtime shopping in the Green Store, which sells recyclable food serviceware; tuning into the Green Grid Radio, which educates the public about complex sustainability and energy issues; or even taking a class in Whitewater Rafting, Kayaking, or Standup Paddleboarding.

  7. University of Washington

    Bothell, WA



    This affordable green college offers a plethora of environmental courses, volunteer opportunities, and research centers, all for less than $10,000 in yearly tuition. Green efforts are ongoing at the University of Washington, which holds a variety of sustainability events on campus every week. In addition, the school approved six new projects just this year, including the Carbon Challenge: Footprint Reduction competition, the UWT Husky Lines, a bus service encouraging more students to use public transportation, and a research study on how to reduce non-recoverable waste at medical facilities. Inside the classroom, students may choose from 25 sustainability-related majors like Aquatic and Fishery Science, Bioresource Science and Engineering, and Environmental Health.

  8. University of California - Irvine

    Irvine, CA



    UC Irvine earned a Gold STARS ranking for its commitment to environmentally conscious education. The Sustainability Curriculum Project is dedicated to increasing climate-neutral learning opportunities for students and currently offers 78 sustainability-focused courses, undergraduate and graduate degrees, and even a minor in Global Sustainability. Outside of class, students may take full advantage of the Global Sustainability Resource Center, which connects them to green campus events, organizations like Climatepedia and the Green Initiative Fund, and even internship opportunities. Explorers can spend their breaks on the rural farm village of Mastatal in Costa Rica, where they will learn tropical ecology, reforestation, and sustainable chocolate farming.

  9. Florida State University

    Tallahassee, FL



    Florida State University earned its spot on the best green colleges list for its commitment toward becoming a completely sustainable campus. Some of these efforts include teaching students how to green their rooms, encouraging the use of alternative transportation, and offering a Global Pathways Certificate - Environmental Sustainability theme. Students may join organizations like Engineers Without Borders, which currently is developing a humanitarian program in the Republic of Panama, or the Environmental Service Program, which encourages creating sustainable energy solutions in the community. FSU students also volunteer their time off-campus on a number of green initiatives like the Damayan Garden Project and the Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign.

  10. University of Arizona

    Tucson, AZ



    The University of Arizona is committed to sustainability education, as demonstrated by its dozens of green majors in areas like Sustainable Built Environments, Environmental and Water Resource Economics, and Biosystems Engineering. The Climate Action Plan strives to decrease the university's carbon footprint by reducing energy use while developing more sustainable sources of energy and promoting the use of alternative forms of transportation, recycling, and the purchase of sustainable goods. There are many ways for students who are passionate about the environment to get involved on campus, from joining the Solar Cats or Global Water Brigades to taking part in the Biosphere 2 Research Experience.

College Navigator
College Stats
College XPress
Princeton Review 2014 Green Colleges Guide
Center for Green Schools
Princeton Review College Ratings Methodology

About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career when she started working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates' careers. Her interests actually span far beyond writing, and she is currently studying to be a physicist! Check out her Google+ Profile.

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