CU earns 10th spot on “Top 50 Green Colleges” list

CU Boulder ranked 10th among public universities and 25th overall in The Princeton Review’s “Top 50 Green Colleges.”

This ranking highlights CU’s countless sustainability-focused efforts and a clear dedication to green living. From eco-social justice education to zero-waste initiatives to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings, almost every aspect of life at CU reflects a campus-wide commitment to sustainability.

CU’s impressive ranking did not surprise Environmental Board Chair Kelly Poole.

“The Environmental Center is full of incredibly passionate and intelligent employees dedicated to improving environmental literacy and sustainability programs on campus,” she said. “That being said, there are many schools out there working just as hard as we are. Some schools are even doing more.”

College of the Atlantic, State University of New York and Colby College earned the top three spots. Still, CU promotes many campus-wide initiatives that contributed to its high ranking.

In order to award positions on its list, The Princeton Review took into account many environmental and sustainability related factors in its green rating methodology. The company also conducted a survey for school administrators, which included questions that covered a wide range of topics.

One of the biggest energy concerns for big cities and college campuses is transportation. After electricity generation, transportation contributes the largest amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Boulder’s transportation industry produces 31 percent of the city’s greenhouse gases.

Based on these concerns, one of the survey questions asked school administrators to outline the university’s mass transit programs, like bike sharing and carpools. CU works with the city to distribute RTD bus passes to each student. Bus lines run from main campus to Williams Village and East Campus.

But when it comes to energy, Poole thinks CU could improve its efforts to generate electricity from renewable sources. While the City of Boulder is pushing forward with its plans to produce 100 percent renewable energy city-wide by 2050, according to Poole, “the university as a whole has yet to create or make a commitment to a renewable energy plan. This might be where other schools have us beat.”

College of the Atlantic pledges to be fossil fuel free by 2030. Colby College made the move to 100 percent renewable electricity sources in 2003.

CU’s first ever sustainability officer, Heidi Vangenderen, will address the school’s energy responsibilities during her time at CU.

“She will be working hard to create a sustainability plan for the school,” Poole said.

In the meantime, CU students can feel proud of the school’s many green offerings. Whether living or going to class in one of CU’s 18 LEED certified buildings, participating in bike shares, eating locally sourced, organic food in the dining hall or attending zero-waste football games at Folsom Field, students know that they are contributing to a sustainable community.

“I think CU is very green!” freshman Devon Ostheimer said. “In Will Vill North we save a lot of energy because there’s a master switch that turns off all the outlets except for the fridge and I think that’s super helpful.”

Environmentally conscious students like Ostheimer can also contribute to a more sustainable campus while having fun. By using the campus sustainability app PIPs Rewards, funded by the Environmental Board, students enjoy rewards like cool gadgets and services for making sustainable lifestyle choices. According to Poole, opportunities like this inspire the whole community to become even more environmentally friendly.

“The students on CU’s campus drive the changes and we have the pleasure of helping them do it,” Poole said.

A full view of the CU Boulder main campus. (University of Colorado Boulder/Wikimedia Commons)

Contact CU Independent news staff writer Eliza Radeka at

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