What are the world's 10 most sustainable campuses doing right?

In an effort to evaluate and recognize how higher ed institutions are responding to climate change, the University of Indonesia released its overall 2012 rankings of sustainable campuses across the world on Jan. 8.

The rankings compare campus sustainability among 215 universities from 49 countries, with criteria focusing on infrastructure, attention to energy and water usage, waste treatment, and transportation policy.

As the annual report enters its third year, these are the top 10 schools from the list, along with some details about what the campuses are doing to set themselves apart:


The University of Connecticut moved up in the Green Metric ranking from third to first since last year’s results. In 2012 the university completed a $30 million water facility that will conserve up to 500,000 gallons of water a day, launched a university blog about sustainability, and became the first in the U.S. to include a Climate Adaptation Section in its Climate Action Plan, according to the university’s publication, UConn Today. The university also regularly hosts football and basketball “Green Game Days,” as well as an annual dormitory competition for water and energy conservation.


The University of Nottingham has several campuses which emphasizes different aspects of sustainability. The Sutton Bonington campus has a commercial dairy farm, arable land and organic crops. The Park campus has 330 acres of grassland, trees, water features, and wild areas that encourage biodiversity. Nottingham University has received the Green Flag Award, the national award for community parks and green spaces, for the past decade. In 2012, the university reduced its carbon emissions by more than 1,000 tons, despite an increase in buildings and student enrollment, according to University Business.


University College Cork launched a Global Climate Change program in 2012, through which 20 researchers from the university will give students and faculty an overview of the complexities of climate change. In addition, the number of staff members cycling to work has doubled in four years thanks to the university’s Cycle-to-Work program, which includes bike parking and changing facilities, according to the UCC website.


Northeastern University has a comprehensive green dining plan that includes partnerships with local farms and fisherman, and a composting program. In 2009 Northeastern replaced nearly 70,000 35 W light bulbs with 25 W light bulbs, reducing the university’s carbon emissions by about 686 tons annually, according to the university's website. Northeastern was also the first university to have a dining hall with both the 3-star certified Green Restaurant distinction and LEED Gold status.


The University of Plymouth’s Center for Sustainable Features program has been noted for influencing sustainable practices in the university’s curriculum and for influencing other institutions across the U.K., according to the university’s press office. In The CSF program, students research education for sustainable development with other institutions throughout the U.K. In addition to other programs focusing on sustainability, the University of Plymouth has a Center for Sustainable Transport which will soon be offering master degree programs.


In 2012 the Universite de Sherbrooke installed five public charging stations for electric vehicles. The university spread the charging stations throughout its campuses, creating an electric route in Southwest Quebec, according to the Canada Newswire. While the charging stations encourage drivers to use electric vehicles during the day, the stations charge the university at night.


The University of California Los Angeles campus has a cogeneration plant that uses natural gas to generate electricity and useful heat. The plant accounts for all of the campus’s heating and cooling and about 70 percent of its electricity use, according to the university’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. The university is also establishing a landscaping project that is drought-friendly using permeable paving to capture storm and ground water.


The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus has five subsidized park and ride lots that provide free transportation for faculty, staff and students to and from campus. Members of the Commuter Alternative Program receive a monthly $20 subsidy for vanpool fees, and carpoolers have each rider’s share of permit costs payroll deducted. University representatives said in a news release that it was also noted for its community gardens and programs for sustainable housing.


Over the past five years the University of Bath has decreased its electricity usage and carbon emissions by 10 percent, its gas usage by 20 percent and its water usage by 18 percent, according to the university's website. The university aims to reduce emissions by 19 percent by 2015. In 2011 the university launched a new travel plan that encourages faculty, staff and students to cycle and find alternative means to travel to and from campus.


The University of California Merced campus was ranked in the top ten in 2012 for its Long-Range Development plan for sustainable architecture and design. The university’s plan includes energy efficient lighting by using day light in 75 percent of indoor spaces, and installing carbon dioxide sensors that adjust airflow depending on occupancy.


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Filed Under: Higher Ed Technology Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Flickr user Rusty Clark