Colleges across America are trying their hand at saving the planet. And if the Princeton Review's annual listing of the country's greenest schools is any indication, there are a handful that probably have really low utility bills.
The Princeton Review, in collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council, evaluated colleges based on several factors, including what percentage of the school's total food expenditures goes toward local and/or organic food purchases, whether there are sustainability-focused degrees offered and how much of the school's new construction is LEED-certified.
On one measure in particular, eight schools stood out: 100 percent of their energy consumption (heating, cooling and electrical) comes from renewable resources such as wind or solar power.
Although some renewable energy resources are costly to install, they can provide big savings for colleges in the long run, and schools can use combinations of federal tax incentives and state Solar Renewable Energy Credits to pay for the projects. Rutgers University's Livingston Campus in 2012 used those funding resources to begin outfitting a 3,500-spot parking lot with solar panels, and university officials expect the project will save the school $28 million over the next 20 years.
All of the eight colleges and universities listed by the Princeton Review that generate 100 percent of their energy from renewable resources are small private schools, and many are also liberal arts colleges:
- Adelphi University – Garden City, N.Y.
- Chatham University – Pittsburgh
- Goucher College – Towson, Md.
- Keystone College – La Plume, Pa.
- Lewis & Clark College – Portland, Ore.
- Naropa University – Boulder, Colo.
- Southern New Hampshire University – Manchester, N.H.
- Swarthmore College – Swarthmore, Pa.
On the flip side, research universities – both public and private – mostly fall at the other end of the spectrum, though they could probably benefit the most from lower energy costs. Here are a few where 5 percent or less of their energy consumption comes from renewable resources:
- Florida State University – Tallahassee, Fla.
- Tulane University – New Orleans
- University of Arkansas at Fayetteville – Fayetteville, Ark.
- University of Chicago – Chicago
- University of California, Davis – Davis, Calif.
- Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas
- University of California, Los Angeles – Los Angeles
- University of Arizona – Tucson, Ariz.