Greenest colleges in America: Earth Day 2012 tips on ecolicious living

Earth Day: Lewis center solar parking pavilion

Oberlin College's Lewis Center Solar Parking Pavilion by Flickr bburgess4u

For all of you out there who think recycling means wearing the same sweater twice, look in the mirror and repeat: I can do better. College students across the nation are brimming with new ideas that are revolutionizing how we think about Earth Day 2012 and our role on this planet. Discover what colleges around the country have been doing to reduce campus carbon footprints.

And the winners are…

Not to name drop or anything, but Oberlin College has a solar parking pavilion and hosts a four-week series of environmentally-themed contests between dorms. The University of Florida is hosting the first carbon-neutral home football season this year and is aiming to be waste free by 2015. Several dorms at the University of California, Los Angeles even have solar-heated water. These are just a few of the accomplishments some campuses are boasting, according to the “Top 20 green colleges” list posted by Claire Thompson for from Sierra magazine. These ecological strides are setting the bar for college campuses and attracting students from far and wide. Green with envy? Off this list, the 10 picks for greenest colleges in America are:

  1. University of Colorado, Boulder
  2. University of Washington, Seattle
  3. Middlebury College, Vermont
  4. University of Vermont, Burlington
  5. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine
  6. Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
  7. University of California, Santa Cruz
  8. University of California, Berkeley
  9. University of California, Los Angeles
  10. Oberlin College, Ohio

It’s the little things that count

How many of you have kept your New Year’s resolutions to go greener? No worries if you let them slip like most of us did—there’s no time like the present to get started. Consider these tips to an ecolicious college life.

  • Be crafty: DIY is the way to go for any college student on a budget. If you’re looking to revamp your dorm room or apartment, sewing new pillow cases from used clothing or repainting old furniture may be all you need to give your old pad a new facelift.
  • Eat a la carte: Rather than buying that all-inclusive buffet meal plan at your dorm, try paying just for what you eat. Many campuses now offer various a la carte meal plans, which makes you more conscious about how much you’re eating and reduces waste (not to mention the freshman 15).
  • Consume less beef and cheese: It’s no secret that the livestock industry is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Try incorporating more fish instead.
  • Go to a farmer’s market: Buying local, seasonal produce cuts down on wasteful packing and air-freight costs.

Make Arbor Day and Earth Day all about, well, the Earth

As Earth Day and Arbor Day 2012 (April 22 and April 27th, respectively) round the bend this spring, your inbox is likely to be flooded with every environmental event within a 500-mile radius, which will in effect prompt you to A) ignore or B) delete. Before you hit overload, try picking out an activity now based on what inspires you the most and commit to it. Or, even better, start planning an activity of your own right now. Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning.

  • Green your fraternity or sorority. Move the masses and challenge your Greek family. As if you need another reason to party, right?
  • Start a flash mob style recycling drive using social networking
  • Implement a campus carbon footprint calculator to drive down water and energy use.

Planting an edible garden

You may be saying to yourself you’d like to have a garden one day, like once you’ve paid off some of that college debt and have more time on your hands to kill. Welcome to that day. Growing organic food isn’t as hard as it sounds and doesn’t require as much space as you may think. In his March 7, 2012 post to, “3 Books to Help You Grow Beautiful Edible Gardens From Yard, Deck, or Rooftop,” Ramon Gonzalez highlights three authors who are guiding the way to sustainable living, one vegetable at a time. Particularly useful for college students is the book on growing food in small, urban spaces titled Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail.

How do you plan on going green this Earth Day?


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