SaveOnEnergy 2017 Green Report: Top Universities in the U.S.

May 26, 2016   By The SOE Team

SaveOnEnergy 2017 Green Report: Top Universities in the U.S.

Here at®, we’re constantly on the lookout for noteworthy progress in eco-friendliness and sustainability. We believe that change is not made all at once, but achieved through the collective efforts of individuals and organizations working together toward the greater good of protecting our planet. Recently, we took a look at universities in the U.S. that share this value.

To create this list, we assessed the newly released 2017 U.S. News & World Report Top 100 Universities list and ranked them based on a number of eco-friendly factors. Below are universities and colleges in the U.S. that actively prioritize sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint through various on-campus initiatives and community partnerships. To learn about how our rankings were determined, see the methodology section at the bottom of this report.

While many universities in the U.S. employ sustainability programs and education tracks, the universities that made our list received high scores in all areas assessed. Did your university or alma mater make the list?

Note: The SaveOnEnergy Green Score is on a scale of 1-100, with a higher score reflecting a higher ranking. Conversely, the U.S. News College Score reflects each university’s ranking based on various non-green factors. Finally, the Princeton Review Green Rating is on a scale of 1-100, with a higher score reflecting a higher ranking.

1. Georgetown University

Georgetown UniversityGuided by its core values of “people, planet, prosperity and purpose,” Georgetown University employs various initiatives that prioritize eco-friendliness. In 2016, four solar-powered outdoor chargers were installed throughout the campus – a joint effort with the Georgetown Energy and Environmental Network – to give students a place to charge their laptop, phone or tablet while using renewable energy. In addition to these solar chargers, the university emphas environmental awareness through its campus-wide composting program, utilized by many students.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 82.2308
U.S. News College Score: 20 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 99
Undergrad Population: 7,562
Location: Washington, DC

2. American University

American UniversityAmerican University strives for zero waste and is working toward achieving this goal through exhaustive composting, recycling and collection efforts. Instead of garbage cans, separate bins designated for the recycling of specific items – such as metal, paper, plastic or food – are scattered throughout the campus, making it easy for students to divert waste from the landfill.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 81.4308
U.S. News College Score: 74 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 95
Undergrad Population: 7,909
Location: Washington, DC

3. George Washington University

From a campus-wide Meatless Mondays initiative to an onsite student-tended garden and rainwater collection system, George Washington University (GW) students, faculty and staff make sustainability a daily practice to decrease their carbon footprint and help protect the planet. The GW Ecosystems Enhancement Strategy, for example, is an ongoing plan to improve the campus’ ecosystem through the creation of urban gardens and increase of natural, sustainable space.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 80.6308
U.S. News College Score: 56 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 91
Undergrad Population: 11,157
Location: Washington, DC

4. Brown University

Brown UniversityWith its “Brown is Green” initiatives that aim to create a more eco-friendly campus and community, it’s clear that Brown University’s sustainability efforts are helping make a difference for future generations. For the past five years, it has held Brown Unplugged: Do it in the Dark – an annual dorm energy competition that challenges students to unplug over a period of three weeks. The incentive? The dorm with the highest percentage of energy reduction at the end of the contest wins an array of coveted prizes, plus recognition from the university president.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 77.5017
U.S. News College Score: 14
Princeton Review Green Rating: 98
Undergrad Population: 6,652
Location: Providence, RI

5. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

University of MinnesotaAt the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN), promoting global sustainability is a top priority. Its Global Water Initiative is dedicated to evaluating worldwide water sustainability by mapping points of water use and availability across the globe. On the homefront, the UMN Office of Sustainability and its “It All Adds Up” campaign is working toward becoming carbon neutral by 2050. By retrofitting campus buildings to reduce carbon output and holding zero waste events, the university is optimistic about seeing this goal become a reality.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 74.8321
U.S. News College Score: 71 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 99
Undergrad Population: 34,071
Location: Minneapolis, MN

6. University of Washington

University of WashingtonAt the University of Washington (UW), students, faculty and staff are encouraged to divert trash from the landfill whenever possible. During the last fiscal year, 62% of campus waste was reported as either recycled or composted. Keeping in step with this initiative, the UW Surplus Store is an on-campus program that helps find a new home for unused campus equipment – such as small appliances – while the university’s salvage wood program repurposes removed campus trees into lumber for campus furniture.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 74.0164
U.S. News College Score: 54 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 95
Undergrad Population: 31,063
Location: Seattle, WA

7. University of Vermont

University of VermontIn addition to offering its popular sustainability education track, the University of Vermont encourages students to practice eco-friendly behavior in all aspects of their day-to-day lives. In addition to having several LEED-certified buildings onsite and employing a strategic usage of renewable energy, the school also collects donations of used campus furniture to be upcycled rather than sending them to the landfill.


SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 72.4420
U.S. News College Score: 92 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 96
Undergrad Population: 10,973
Location: Burlington, VT

8. University of Iowa

Holding a silver-level rating for bicycle-friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists, the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to providing multiple alternative transportation options for its students, faculty and staff. With a free on-campus bus system, a popular ride-share program and bike-friendly campus, UI seeks a 10% reduction to its carbon impact from transportation. Furthermore, through frequent waste audits and the RecycleMania reward program, UI is progressing toward a firm goal of diverting 60% of campus waste from the landfill by 2020.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 68.7
U.S. News College Score: 82 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 71
Undergrad Population: 23,357
Location: Iowa City, IA

9. University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of WisconsinEach academic year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison sets aside $50,000 for its Green Fund, which supports up to four student-initiated projects each academic year. Any student in good standing can apply for funding, but must have a project in mind that helps reduce the environmental footprint and operating costs of on-campus facilities in the areas of solid waste removal or energy and water conservation.


SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 68.0596
U.S. News College Score: 44 (t)
Princeton Review Green Rating: 91
Undergrad Population: 31,662
Location: Madison, WI

10. Dartmouth College

Dartmouth CollegeAt Dartmouth College, sustainability isn’t just a campus initiative – it’s a way of life. With a goal to help “change the world through sustainability innovation at the intersection of operations and academics,” Dartmouth is employing efforts to help this goal become a reality. An early adopter of a campus recycling program in 1988, it has since adopted several effective sustainability programs. The goal? To help conserve valuable resources so people around the world can have access to clean water, nutritious food, safe shelter, basic sanitation, accessible energy and adequate medical care.

SaveOnEnergy Green Score: 68.0012
U.S. News College Score: 11
Princeton Review Green Rating: 85
Undergrad Population: 4,307
Location: Hanover, NH

To round out the top 25 universities, here are the remaining 15 that also earned a high SaveOnEnergy Green Score.

Note: See the methodology section at the bottom of this report for detailed information on how rankings were determined

To complete the list, here are the final 77 schools from the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Top 100 list and their SaveOnEnergy Green Rank.

What Are Other U.S. Universities Doing to Go Green?

Many schools on the U.S. News & World Report Top 100 list have a strong focus on sustainability and are employing effective initiatives to make their campus eco-friendly. From school or community events that promote sustainability to robust recycling programs, here are some of the notable ways that they are doing their part to help the environment.

Renewable Energy

University of Tulsa

University of Tulsa“In 2016, the University of Tulsa (UT) partnered with the Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to install a solar array of 936 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels on the roof of UT’s Case Tennis Center. One of the largest rooftop installations in Oklahoma, the panels are estimated to generate 450,000 kilowatts of energy – more than 50 percent of the building’s annual usage.” – University of Tulsa Office of Sustainability 

LEED Certified Campus Buildings

University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut“As part of the Next Generation Connecticut Initiative, the University of Connecticut (UConn) constructed its LEED Silver NextGen Hall dormitory that features a green roof garden, solar thermal panels and an energy monitoring dashboard, among other sustainable features. Further LEED certified buildings at UConn include Oak and Laurel Halls, the Burton-Shenkman Football Complex, as well as a number of additions and renovations on campus.” – Sarah M. T. Munro, Sustainability Program Coordinator

Cornell University

Cornell University“Cornell University currently has 17 LEED certified buildings. In 2008, Cornell’s Board of Trustees approved a policy that requires any new construction projects costing more than $5 million to attain LEED certification at a minimum of Silver level. These projects must also achieve a minimum of 30 percent in energy savings compared to the baseline established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers, the national standard for energy efficient buildings.” – Sarah E. Brylinksy, Sustainability Communications & Integration Manager

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University“Doisy Research Center is our only certified building.  Our newest residence hall, Spring Hall and currently under construction, Grand Hall, is built to LEED Silver standards.  Additionally, our Center for Global Citizenship, a former athletic gymnasium, was renovated in the last few years into a new student commons and auditorium. After the renovation, it qualified for LEED Silver status.”Saint Louis University Office of Sustainability

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill“Our LEED Gold Genome Sciences Building anchors this new mixed use center of campus with an amphitheater – complete with a 350,000-gallon stormwater cistern.” – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Office of Sustainability

Campus Recycling Programs

Lehigh University

Lehigh University“Lehigh University is committed to preserving natural resources and recognizes the role that recycling services in reducing the consumption of virgin resources. Lehigh has single stream recycling where clean cans and bottles can be mixed together with paper and glass. We currently recycle approximately 25 percent of our total waste stream and are working toward increasing recyclables by 10 percent over our 2012 baseline.” – Katharine Targett, Office of Sustainability

University of California, Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara“We have both a recycling and a composting program in place. Recycling receptacles at the University of California, Santa Ba
rbara (UCSB) are easily accessible and strategically located to meet the community’s recycling needs. UCSB promotes both commingled recycling and multi-stream recycling where appropriate. Additionally, UCSB offers a compost service for both pre- and post-consumer food scraps and BPI-certified compostable packaging. Compost receptacles are located at major dining facilities on campus and other select locations. Last year our campus diverted 68 percent of waste through recycling, composting and other programs.” – Mo Lovegreen, Director of Campus Sustainability

University of Maryland-College Park

University of Maryland“We have both a recycling and composting program on campus.  In 2015, we had a 47% individual recycling rate and an 83% institutional diversion of waste from the landfill.”University of Maryland-College Park Office of Sustainability



Yale University

Yale University“Yale University takes a multi-faceted approach to encouraging sustainable transportation on and off campus: Working to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles; offering a bike share program and enhancing facilities for use by bicyclists; providing incentives for transit such has pre-tax benefits and a guaranteed ride home program; ensuring students and staff have efficient means of transportation through our car-sharing (Zipcar) and campus shuttle programs; and facilitating ride-sharing and commuter benefits through state and local partnerships. As a result of these efforts, the vast majority of Yale students use sustainable transportation over other modes.” – Lindsay Crum, LEED Green Associate and Metrics & Program Manager

University of Denver

University of Denver“The Center for Sustainability hosts diverse education and engagement programs for all students and employees.  Alternative transportation programs are offered, and a strong bike program includes a student-run bike shop and bike rental program.” – University of Denver Center for Sustainability


Campus and Community Partnerships

Cornell University

Cornell University“Cornell University is a partner with Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, an award-winning coalition of community leaders from the education, business, local government, youth, and nonprofit sectors that provides a place to meet and network around climate and energy issues. Building on the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the towns of Caroline, Dryden, and Ithaca, TCCPI seeks to foster a more climate resilient community and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. TCCPI is committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on climate protection, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. It is a transformative organization through its focus on solutions and resources for the average family in Tompkins County.” – Cornell University Office of Sustainability

Baylor University

Baylor University“At Baylor University, our Sustainability Student Advisory Board regularly volunteers with the local chapter of Keep America Beautiful, Keep Waco Beautiful, on beautification and cleanup projects around our community, throughout the year. Most recently, the student board adopted two city parks as their responsibility for year-round cleanup.” – Smith Getterman, Director of Sustainability & Special Projects


Community and State Sustainability Initiatives Near U.S. News Top-Ranked Universities

In addition to their internal eco-friendly factors, the presence of robust community and state sustainability initiatives also played a role in determining each school’s final ranking. Universities in communities with a high density of farmers markets per capita or abundance of green jobs, for example, earned higher scores. These factors, as well as those reflected in the infographic below, play an important role in lowering both the community and state’s carbon footprint and reminding residents of the importance of protecting the environment.

Note: Numbers next to each university reflect its SaveOnEnergy Green Score in the corresponding category, not its overall SaveOnEnergy Green Score. To learn more about how category scores were determined, see the methodology section at the bottom of this report.

Green University Density in U.S. News Top-Ranked States

Note: On the map above, the number of green campuses in each state reflects universities from the 2017 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges that also earned a SaveOnEnergy Green Score. Only the universities found on the report were taken into consideration, not the overall number of universities in the state. Grey states indicate those without a university on the Top 100 report nor a SaveOnEnergy Green Score.

Methodology and Sources

When creating this list, we re-ranked universities found on the 2017 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list and awarded them a SaveOnEnergy Green Score based on specific eco-friendly factors. To determine university rankings, we looked beyond the campus itself and investigated the communities in which each school is located. In addition to taking each school’s Princeton Review Green Score into consideration, we analyzed data detailing farmers markets in the state  using the 2015 USDA Farmers Markets by Community list, reviewed the community’s public transportation options and walkability using, investigated the density of parks near each university using The Trust for Public Land 2015 Park Score, reflected on the state’s eco-friendly energy options based on the Department of Energy Renewable Energy by State score and looked into the amount of green jobs in the area by reviewing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Green Jobs State Report.

After analyzing this data, SaveOnEnergy Green Scores and Ranks were developed using the following formula:

Walk Score: 20% – Score was created as a composite score of walkability, biking and public transportation options adjusted to a scale of 1-100.
Green Jobs Score: 10% – Adjusted to a scale of 1-100.
Farmers Markets Score: 10% – Scoring based on the number of markets per 1,000 residents.
Park Score: 20% – Scoring based on the d
ensity of parks in the closest city to each university.

Princeton Review Green Score: 20%
Department of Energy Renewable Energy by State: 20% – Adjusted to a scale of 1-100.