Colleges appeal to students with green policies

Universities are touting green initiatives to draw eco-conscious students.
Universities are touting green initiatives to draw eco-conscious students.

Small private colleges and large research universities alike have adopted green policies in recent years in an effort to trim energy bills, encourage sustainability, and lure environmentally conscious students to their campuses. Now, a college counseling company has named five schools in particular as the most eco-friendly.

Such lists could carry weight among prospective students. In fact, nearly seven in 10 high school students surveyed by the Princeton Review last year said they would evaluate a college’s environmental policies and commitments before attending classes there. And with Earth Day approaching on April 22, schools are touting their green credentials in the annual springtime recruiting blitz.

IvyWise, a counseling company based in New York City and headed by admissions expert Katherine Cohen, released its list last week of schools that appeal to the greenest of prospective students: the University of Washington at Seattle, Arizona State University, Bates College, Emory University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, for example, was recognized for its Bates Bike Co-op, which gives participating students a bike lock key that can be used to unlock bikes kept in convenient spots across the campus. Students pay a $10 annual fee for Co-op membership, and with more than 90 percent of Bates students living on campus, the program has proven popular, with an anonymous donor giving a new fleet of bikes to the college in 2009.

Emory University in Atlanta made the IvyWise list based partly on its commitment to procure three-quarters of its food ingredients from sustainable sources by 2015. Emory—which launched a web site highlighting the campus’s green buildings and sustainability-related classes—offers a course in environmental journalism.

The IvyWise list of eco-friendly institutions also was based on a university’s natural surroundings, such as the mountainous terrain that attracts students to UC Boulder. Boulder Environmental Center, one of the country’s oldest of its kind, organizes student meetings that focus on a range of eco-friendly initiatives, including wildlife projects, ride sharing, efficiency, and earth education. The university also hosts the annual Conference on World Affairs, which draws environmental experts from across the globe.

Higher-education officials said establishing and publicizing green programs and curriculum can help prospective students make a final decision after spending months weighing their college options for the following year.

Jeannie Matheison, a sustainability advisor at the University of Idaho’s Sustainability Center, said course offerings that reflect an acute awareness of environmental issues such as climate change and food shortages can be a long-term recruiting tool for admissions offices.

Idaho’s Sustainability Center has funded almost $200,000 in two native vegetation gardens, a rainwater harvest garden, a green roof, multiple recycling initiatives, composting of university food and farm waste, and other initiatives in recent years, according to the center’s web site.