Green Right Now Reports

Princeton Review’s new 2012 Guide to Green Colleges commends 322 colleges for green living practices and learning opportunities, but breaks the paradigm of ranking the schools or sorting them into “best of” categories.

The Review reports that it dropped the grading system because all of the 322 schools on this year’s list — winnowed from 768 that were sent surveys — “have demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability initiatives.”

No one on this large list of schools, which run the gamut from community colleges to Ivies, gets a mediocre grade, or an excellent grade. Parents and prospective students, accustomed to slicing and dicing every program into a finely chopped salad, will just have to get used to it. Apparently.

Absent any “Top 10” or “Top 50” lists, or specific rankings on green building progress or sustainability curricula, readers can check the Review’s notes on each university — or they can peek at last year’s 2011 top green schools list. (Quickly: American University, Arizona State University, College of the Atlantic, Dickinson College, Georgia Institute of Technology. Harvard College, Northeastern University, Oregon State University, San Francisco State University. State University of New York at Binghamton, University of California—Santa Cruz, University of Maine, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point, Virginia Tech, Warren Wilson College.) There are lists of schools that have buildings certified as green by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and of schools that have signed on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

The authors of the report, done in conjunction with the USGBC and sponsor, United Technologies, explain their thinking inside the free guide:

“Nowhere in this book will you find a hierarchical listing of the “greenest” colleges or the ones with the “best” sustainability practices. Just as we believe there is no such thing as a “best” college (just a best college for you),
there is no one way to be green.

“All 322 schools in this book, however, have demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability initiatives. We chose them based on Green Rating scores we tallied for and reported in our 2011 school profiles. Of all the schools
that responded to our Green Survey and received Green Ratings, these 322 schools scored in the ’80s or ’90s on our tallies. They are terrific green institutions in our opinion with many different and wonderful offerings.
For this reason, we salute and recommend them to students seeking to learn and live at a green college….

The report goes on to note that the individual profiles of the schools can be used “as a springboard” to learning about them, but adds the caveats: “Many factors should go into your assessment of the colleges you are considering. Form your own opinion about the colleges. At the end of the day, it’s what you think.”

So is a “best of” list more or less valuable if it refuses to narrow down the options? We think less, but you may see it differently. After all, there’s no right or wrong here.