A review of the Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges  shows that environmental “literacy” has become a mandatory education component at over three dozen “green” colleges, with entries for 37 of the 286 campuses indicating that these schools have an “environmental literacy requirement” for the student body.
As examples given in the guide show, environmental “literacy” includes not only learning about environmental issues but teaching students to adopt green lifestyles and how to reduce their carbon footprint:
- For example, the guide states that at New England College  “…every NEC student receives a primer in sustainability and climate change before graduation” (emphasis added).
- And at Prescott College , “Respect for the natural world, as well as specific training in sustainability, is incorporated into nearly every class (even those without a green focus).”
- At the University of Georgia , according to TPR, “…Engineering students have conducted energy audits on campus buildings; students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communication look for ways to promote energy conservation and recycling; and students in the River Basin Science and Policy Center research water quality in area streams.”
- The University of Maine  entry contains similar language. “UM’s new student orientation includes sustainability programming, and Eco Reps in residence halls coordinate recycling programs and lead other environmental initiatives,” states The Princeton Review guide (emphasis added).
- As for the University of Northern Iowa , its “…liberal arts core program incorporates the issue of sustainability and environmental responsibility throughout the curriculum and the capstone course ‘Environment, Technology, and Society’ has specific modules devoted explicitly to the topic.” “UNI Energy! is a student organization that energizes students in residence halls to calculate their carbon footprint and commit to reducing it.”
- At the University of Southern Florida , “Undergraduates are taught sustainability as part of the school’s mandatory core curriculum,” states the guide (emphasis added).
Small wonder, then, that a 2010 Gallup poll on climate change attitudes showed that while most demographics had experienced a rise in skepticism about news coverage regarding climate change, Millennials, ages 18 to 29, showed no change. “Notably, all of the past year’s uptick in cynicism about the seriousness of global warming coverage occurred among Americans 30 and older,” wrote  Lydia Saad for Gallup on March 11. “The views of 18- to 29-year-olds, the age group generally most concerned about global warming and most likely to say the problem is underestimated, didn’t change.”
“It’s not only about greening the campus, but the greening of the student mind,” said Iona College  Environmental Concerns Committee Chair Dr. Frederica Rudell, according to the school’s website . “To that end, ECC has helped introduce green marketing programs into the curricula,” states the guide after quoting Rudell.
Some schools whose TPR descriptions indicate they do not have an environmental literacy requirement still integrate green living into their curriculum. For example, Eastern Connecticut State University  “…seeks to create a ‘campuswide [sic] culture of conservation and sustainability,’ not only through green-minded initiatives, but also green-minded education in students’ first year program coursework and the school’s Environmental Earth Science major,” according to the guide.
At Harvard College  peer pressure pushes sustainability outcomes. “As an example, a peer-to-peer engagement program (picture students running around the dorm telling each other to turn off the lights) has helped Harvard College students reduce their energy consumption by more than 12 percent over the last four years,” states the guide. The TPR publication doesn’t indicate whether or not Harvard College has an environmental literacy requirement.
TPR’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges was “presented in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council,” according to its website . Rob Franek, Senior Vice President and Publisher for The Princeton Review says in an online video that his organization paid close attention to three “guiding principles” when constructing the guide:
- “Look for a healthy campus,”
- “Green curriculum,” and
- “A commitment to sustainability.”
“In our recent college hopes and worries survey 64% of college applicants and their parents told us that having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would impact their decision to apply to and attend that school,” says Franek in the video. “When we saw those results we knew we had to provide students and parents with this resource as a public service.”
TPR used ten criteria to rate the hundreds of schools it rated, namely,
1. the percentage of food spending on “local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food,”
2. whether the school offers bus passes and other public transportation, car sharing, etc. which encourages “alternatives to single-passenger automobile use for students,”
3. “Whether the school has a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus,”
4. “Whether new buildings are required to be LEED Silver certified,”
5. “The school’s overall waste diversion rate,” or the rate at which garbage is diverted from landfills,
6. the presence of an “ environmental studies major, minor or concentration,”
7. “Whether the school has an ‘environmental literacy’ requirement” (emphasis added),
8. if “the school has produced a publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventory and adopted a climate action plan consistent with 80 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 targets,”
9. “What percentage of the school’s energy consumption, including heating/cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable sources…” and
10. “Whether the school employs a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer.”
“Of 697 schools we gave ‘Green Ratings’ to, these 286 schools scored in the 80s or 90s on our tallies,” states the guide.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia .