These 5 Most Sustainable Colleges In The U.S. Are Leading The Way To A Green Future

January 6, 2022

Colleges and universities around the U.S. are getting on board with sustainability, social responsibility, and veganism! It’s an exciting time to consider attending one of them, and if it feels overwhelming to browse through endless lists and sustainability reports, look no further.

Here are five of the most sustainable colleges in the U.S.:

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

This school goes above and beyond by adapting their beautiful old campus to be more sustainable and efficient. They encourage students to host sustainability events, when one isn’t being hosted by the college itself, and they aim for “Three Zeros Goals”—no water waste, no landfill waste, net zero greenhouse emissions. They also have multiple campus gardens that do a lot of community engagement work, and the school offers a wide array of environmental degrees. There are a good amount of animal welfare groups on campus as well, making it a great place for both sustainability and ethical living. The dining meals include a huge variety of vegan options also, so PETA has given it an A+ review for being vegan-friendly! Not to mention the fact that the local town itself is bustling with vegan eateries. Overall, it’s a great place for mindful people to attend!


College of the Atlantic

This school sits on the coast of Maine in Bar Harbor. It’s extremely picturesque, and time and time again ranks highly for being green. They teach a “human-ecological education” with the goal of familiarizing students to the nature around them. They have enabled fossil fuel divestment initiatives, banned single-use plastic, and are working towards achieving a 100% zero-waste campus! In 2007 the school became the first carbon-neutral college in the country, and is still striving towards furthering the progress thanks to a goal to be fossil-fuel free in 2030. Their food is all sustainably sourced, mainly organic, and features lots of vegan options! It’s no wonder this human ecology school always makes the top listing for most sustainable schools in the country.


Dickinson College

This beautiful Pennsylvania school is carbon neutral, and generating 30% of its electricity from their own solar panels. Year after year they receive national recognition for their strides in sustainability, and it’s not difficult to understand why. They compost 100% of their food waste, operate an 80 acre organic farm where they grow their own produce, and receive major grants almost yearly for greening efforts. They also serve a generous amount of vegan meals every day, including delicious creations like vegan cream of tomato soup, cauliflower stuffed poblano peppers, coconut blueberry baked oatmeal, tempeh and vegetable masala, and vegan scrambled eggs! Sustainability education is also woven into every student’s education at the school, making sure that everyone (regardless of area of study) leaves with knowledge of how to live in harmony with the planet. They also have a variety of environmental academic programs for prospective students to choose from, and their environmental studies department is one of the oldest in the country!


University of California Santa Cruz

With their focus on locally grown, seasonal, organic food, this is a mecca for those who want amazing food to go with their ocean views. They have a 30-acre farm that they use to nourish students with, and about 1/3 of the menu items at their various eateries on campus are vegan! Their UCSC Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems is number one in the country for sustainable food and agriculture studies. They also have a partnership with Monterey Regional Waste Management that allows them to divert 600 tons of organic waste away from landfills annually. The campus also advocates for water conservation, and educates students on the water crisis in the state. They also have multiple Earth-centered academic programs, including marine biology, plant sciences, ecology and evolution, earth sciences, and environmental studies. This is a stunning place to enjoy the sea, learn about the planet, and eat organic food.


University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The first university to divest from fossil fuels, this school is impressive. They are also the first east coast school to have a specialized sustainability program, and they offer over 350 courses on the subject. Their environmental programs consistently rank in the top spots in the country every year, and students continually win prestigious awards for their groundbreaking work. They also are years ahead of the rest of the country in terms of energy conservation, carbon mitigation, and wind power (the first US wind turbine ever was built on the campus in the 1970s). They are very transparent about their environmental impact, and have published quantitative reports available on their website. On campus, they also participate in E-waste recycling, electric vehicular transportation, many green events, and among other amazing things, a program called New2U where every move-out date students are given the chance to sell their unwanted things or have them collected for repurposing. The college aims to give students every chance to live as sustainably as possible, and it seems they are very successful at it. They also have a student farm and student farmers market that runs weekly! It’s just an amazing place to learn about the environment, be a part of a groundbreaking organization, and participate in world renowned research all while enjoying organic and campus-grown food.


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Photo: Respective colleges

Emily Iris Degn
Emily Iris Degn is an environmental travel writer, editor, passionate eco-journalist, professional artist, and published eco-poet. She is from the San Juan Islands, but currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her incredible partner and beloved sea shell collection. You can find her in many spaces on Instagram: @emilyirisdegn @happyvegansfeed @emfallstoearth @emilydegnart OR at


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