University of Rhode Island among The Princeton Review’s greenest colleges

The University of Rhode Island’s commitment to sustainability is once again in the spotlight as The Princeton Review has named URI among the nation’s “greenest” colleges for the eighth year in a row.

The Princeton Review’s Guide to 375 Green Colleges: 2017 Edition profiles colleges with exceptional commitments to sustainability based on their academic offerings and career preparation for students, campus policies, initiatives and activities. The profiles in the guide give college applicants information about each school’s admission requirements, cost and financial aid, as well as student body facts and stats.

“We are extremely proud and honored to consistently receive recognition through The Princeton Review’s annual guide to green colleges and universities,” said Marsha Garcia, URI’s campus sustainability officer. “It’s an affirmation that we are following through with our mission to be a model land- and sea-grant university. Ensuring our students receive the best education possible to be good stewards of both the land and the sea is key to the future of the planet.”

The free guide can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide. Users can also peruse detailed “Green Facts” about the schools. These write-ups report on everything from the school’s use of renewable energy, recycling and conservation programs to the availability of environmental studies and career guidance for green jobs.

The guide noted URI’s President’s Council on Sustainability, buildings certified for Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design (LEED), sustainability-focused degree availability and its plethora of transportation alternatives among the reasons for its inclusion on the list.

Garcia pointed out that 11 University building projects over the past decade – encompassing more than a million square feet – are LEED certified, and all future building projects are expected to achieve LEED certification.

In addition, the University boasts an electric vehicle charging station which can service two vehicles simultaneously, helping commuters and visitors avoid using more than 1,000 gallons of gasoline since it was installed in 2013. Another station is slated to be installed next year.

URI has reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over 11 years, despite an increase in campus population and building space.

More than just infrastructure, URI’s sustainability efforts carry over to the academic side, as well. The University has secured more than $50 million in grants for research and projects related to energy sustainability and/or climate change since 2013 and URI offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degrees that include sustainability as a learning outcome.

“The University of Rhode Island has been at the forefront of environmental research for decades, developing a greater understanding of ecology while also examining the impact of human activities on ecosystems as varied as the deep sea and suburban backyards,” Garcia said.

URI President David M. Dooley and Provost Donald H. DeHayes, along with the members of the senior leadership team, have unanimously approved the Strategic Plan for Campus Sustainability and Climate Action. The plan proposes goals focused on the integration of sustainability into the curriculum across colleges; outreach to the on- and off-campus community to increase sustainability awareness; and goals to decrease URI’s greenhouse gas emissions, in alignment with statewide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

The University has also made efforts to educate faculty, staff and students and encourage them to exhibit environmentally friendly behavior. For instance, URI community members have taken advantage of bottle filling water stations across campus, diverting more than 1 million plastic water bottles from the landfill. In fact, the University reduced campus-wide waste by 10 percent, or nearly 500 tons, between 2012 and 2016.

That kind of commitment to the environment is a key attraction to many students, according to Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s senior vice president and publisher.

“Among nearly 10,000 teens who participated in our 2017 College Hopes & Worries Survey, 64 percent told us that having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the college,” Franek said. “We strongly recommend the schools in this guide to environmentally-minded students who seek to study and live at green colleges.”

The Princeton Review chose the colleges based on “Green Rating” scores (from 60 to 99) that the company tallied in summer 2017 for 629 colleges using data from its 2016-17 survey of school administrators. The survey asked them to report on their school’s sustainability-related policies, practices and programs. More than 25 data points were weighted in the assessment. Schools with Green Rating scores of 80 or higher made it into the guide. Most of the schools (375) in this edition are in the U.S. Thirteen are in Canada, and one is in Egypt.

Garcia noted that inclusion on the list enhances URI’s profile among top-performing students who are environmentally conscious.

“Many students come to me with questions or requests to work on sustainability-related projects on campus,” Garcia said. “Many have a personal interest in sustainability, or they need to complete classwork, and they are always impressed with the steps the University has taken to become a sustainable campus.”