The United States ain't looking pretty when it comes to addressing climate change since Donald Trump took office. The administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord marked the nadir (so far) of damaging measures, and left many deeply concerned for the future of the earth.
And yet, there is hope — look no further than the nation's own colleges to find the next generation of leaders and innovators committed to fighting climate change.
To remind ourselves that some good is happening when it comes to environmental protection, we've assembled a list of some of the most sustainable colleges, and some of the innovative practices they're using. If you're a student looking to live on a sustainable campus or even major in environmental stewardship, you should definitely check out these schools.
If you're considering a career in sustainability, look no further than Sterling College in Craftsbury Commons, Vermont. Sterling's mission is a rare one in the field of higher education in the US— it's main purpose is to "educate stewards of the environment." In fact, the college only offers majors that deal directly with the environment.
Students can choose between bachelor's degrees in five areas: Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Food Systems, Ecology, Environmental Humanities and Outdoor Education. Not too (sustainably) shabby.
But you're not just going to learn about sustainability at Sterling, you're basically going to live it. Forget vending machines (the campus eliminated them over ten years ago)—all the food you eat will be sustainable, and 20 percent of it will come from Sterling's own student-run farm. 80 percent of the energy used on campus comes from solar power produced by recently installed solar trackers.
Sterling is also one of eight federally recognized "work colleges" in America, meaning that every single student on campus is employed by Sterling itself. Students work a variety of green jobs on campus, from Sustainability Tracking Assistant, to Food Systems Analyst, or even a Green Bicycle Technician.
The best news? Students earn a minimum of $1,650 per semester at these jobs, meaning a Sterling education is also sustainable for your bank account.
Colorado State University
It doesn't hurt to be reminded of your commitment to protecting the environment if your school is in a stunning natural setting.
Colorado State University is bordered by the Great Plains on one side, and the Rocky Mountain on the other. The University also boasts a separate Mountain Campus, located high up the Rocky Mountains, which is devoted to a number of sustainable research projects including watershed science, forestry and renewable energy.
But you don't have to hike up the mountain to get a green education—all of CSU is committed to sustainability.
Out of the college's 2,600 courses, 962 are sustainability related and all of the university's eight colleges offer sustainability majors and minors. CSU also practices what it preaches when it comes to green initiatives; the campus is home to 26 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, 13 solar arrays with a commitment to have 100 percent renewable electricity across campus by 2030, 25 electric car charging stations across campus, and programs bicycle education and maintenance.
All that just about makes Colorado State University one of the greenest colleges in the nation.
Stanford may be known for its proximity to Silicon Valley (and its famous startup-founder alums), but the school also deserves to be celebrated for its incredible commitment to sustainability.
All seven of the university's major schools offer a total of over five hundred courses in sustainability, making its commitment to the environment interdisciplinary. Stanford also boasts an entire program committed to making our world a greener place: The School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences.
The campus itself is also incredibly sustainable, and utilizes a state-of-the-art energy supply system known as the Stanford Energy Systems Innovation (SESI) project. The SESI was one of the first large scale systems of its kind, following sustainable guidelines recommended by the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Programme. This system, in conjunction with the university's solar power grid, has reduced Stanford's greenhouse gas emissions by 68 percent and campus water use by 18 percent.
There's also a number of ways for students to get involved with sustainability on an individual level at Stanford, from joining a green club, to participating in the "Cardinal Green" sustainability program. Or they could just eat the locally sourced organic food in the school's cafeteria.
University of Washington
The University of Washington is so committed to sustainability, that it made its campus a "Living Laboratory" for sustainability-focused research projects.
These innovative "living lab projects" are often the combined efforts of students and faculty at the school, and impact both the UW campus and surrounding communities. The school also has serious funding for these projects: during the 2015-2016 school year, The Campus Sustainability fund awarded $589,666 to 23 projects and the Green Seed Fund committed $190,000 to three projects.
The school's curriculum features an impressive array of sustainability related courses, providing students with hundreds of opportunities to focus their studies on protecting our earth.
The college also has over 40 active environmental student groups, including the Environmental Law Society, a chapter of the International Forestry Student Association, and even a student Beekeeping group if you're into that sort of thing.
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut first established its Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) in 2002, aimed squarely at promoting sustainability on campus. Ever since then, UConn has only deepened its commitment to the environment.
One of the key achievements of the OEP was forming the Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC)—an advisory board comprised of students, administrators, faculty and staff, that reports directly to the President of the University. EPAC fosters an ongoing dialogue about environmental stewardship on campus, as well as affecting real change in how the university approaches sustainability. The OEP has been responsible for over 60 Campus Initiatives aimed at making UConn a greener place to study, including the construction of 23 LEED Certified buildings, a free bike share program, and implementing campus-wide water conservation guidelines.
The school offers over 100 courses that focus on environmentalism. You can get involved with the EcoHusky student group, which is the biggest environmentally focused organization on campus. The university also organizes an annual EcoMadness competition, where each dorm on campus competes to see who can conserve the most water and energy.
The bottom line: if you're into the environment you should be into UConn too.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you think your college makes the grade for all its sustainability efforts, yell at us on Twitter over here: @viceimpact .