Green College Picks

October is the perfect time for your teenager to make the rounds on college tours. But how do you decide which one to attend? Some will go for athletics, academics, or the distance from the school to your home. But what about taking a greener approach?

While there’s been a move to become more planet-friendly across higher education, some colleges and universities have taken it to the next level. Here are our top five favorites, counting down to the best:

5. University of New Hampshire

Durham, New Hampshire (unh.edu)

Rounding out the top five, UNH is the nation’s first major university to create a landfill gas-to-energy project. It is also the first to use landfill gas as its primary fuel source—the gas ends up providing over 85 percent of the heat and electricity for the campus. UNH also happens to have the nation’s oldest endowed university sustainability programs.

4. University of Colorado-Boulder

Boulder, Colorado (colorado.edu)

Boulder is one of the bigger schools on our list, but they are one of the leaders in environmental practices as well! They have the oldest and largest environmental center, plus they started recycling back in 1973. UC-Boulder also topped Sierra Club’s greenest college list in 2009 and partnered with the National Renewable Energy Labs to put up wind turbines at the Wind Research Park.

3. Middlebury College

Middlebury, Vermont (middlebury.edu)

Though not the only school on the list to be home to an environmental celebrity, Middlebury hosts environmental author and activist Bill McKibben as their Schumann Distinguished Scholar. This school also started the Step It Up protests against global warming. They lobbied successfully for a $12 million biomass plant that is currently being built on campus to help them with their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2016.

2. Oberlin College

Oberlin, Ohio (oberlin.edu)

With a focus on local food producers, Oberlin is also the first to have a car-sharing program as well as a strict energy policy stipulating that half of the energy used on campus must come from renewable sources. Most recently, the school created a web-based system to monitor energy and water used within the dorms. The geothermally-heated Lewis Center for Environmental Studies is home to a “living machine” that processes waste water through a plant- and bacteria-based filtration system.

1. College of the Atlantic

Bar Harbor, Maine (coa.edu)

This is one of the coolest schools on our list. While the school only has one major (human ecology) and a few hundred students, it is one of the first schools to go carbon neutral. They’ve been composting since their founding in 1972 and pride themselves on being committed to green building, historic preservation, land conservation, and the elimination of toxins. And you can be sure that every breakfast, lunch, and dinner is locally sourced!