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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Greenest Colleges in Greater Boston and Rhode Island

As today’s high school students evaluate their college options, many want to know how colleges are ranked for green living, as well as how the topic of sustainability is integrated into the academic curriculum. Colleges have become ever more conscious about the environmental impact of how they manage their facilities as well as the importance of preparing students to help solve the world’s growing climate and ecological challenges.

Every college should be ready to answer this question from prospective students: “What can you tell me about your focus on sustainability?”

Emerson College, Bentley University and Northeastern University (NU) are three Boston-area schools ranked among the top 50 Green Colleges by the Princeton Review. In April 2021, NU launched the Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub (formally the Office of Sustainability) to reflect its intention to engage, implement and put research into action across its global network. It offers many opportunities for student engagement such as:

• NU’s Student Sustainability Committee meets monthly and is open to students, student group representatives, faculty and staff, that are engaged in campus sustainability.

• Students gather soil samples throughout the campus to create a soil quality database for the university’s arboretum.

• The Hub organized a student competition to create art pieces depicting climate justice and sustainability themes, resulting in five winners whose works are now on display in the Boston Campus tunnel system. Each piece raises public awareness while expressing the Hub’s goals: advancing sustainable campuses, contributing to a just economy, collaborating with communities and leveraging research for equitable climate solutions.

Additionally, NU’s Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences program offers an opportunity to diverge into one of four concentrations.  These programs will provide students with the comprehensive and transdisciplinary skills needed to tackle pressing environmental problems.

Boston University (BU) promotes the act of “reusing” and taking action to make the old new. Buildings reuse energy and students launch startups that reuse food. BU Sustainability and the BUild Lab provide students grants through the sustainability Innovation Seed Grant program to support projects that help advance BU’s climate action goals.

Earth Day 365 is a new series of events, from lectures to hands-on activities, across BU that highlights the importance of protecting our planet not only on Earth Day, but every day. Learn more at Other school programs include:

The BU Data Science Association hosted a two-day Datathon, providing real-world data that pertains to on-campus emissions and waste. Student teams explored and analyzed data to solve campus sustainability challenges.

The university also hosted a Deconstructed Fashion Show, which highlighted different forms of sustainable fashion, with the concept of taking pieces and deconstructing them to up-cycle to something new. Half of the proceeds went to the Charles River Conservancy.

• BU’s Dental School hosted a dumpster diving waste audit, where the BU Sustainability team investigated the contents of the Dental School’s trash, recycling and food waste bins. Student got their hands a little dirty to help track data on waste diversions throughout the building toward helping BU stay on track for its zero waste goals.

Umass Boston’s sustainability program, UMBeGreen, encompasses four key areas: recycling, sustainability, education and practice. Students can learn, lead, intern and participate in sustainability activities, which include capstone courses and special events. As examples:

• UMass Boston was the first school in the country to offer a Ph.D. in chemistry with a track in green chemistry.

*Within the College of Management, the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness is leading a two-year project funded by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency to provide pollution prevention technical assistance to Massachusetts craft breweries, with the aim of helping them reduce their use of energy, water and chemicals and prevent waste, while gaining financial savings and improved brand recognition.

*Offering a dozen undergraduate programs, the School for the Environment brings together committed people worldwide whose interests vary from urban planning to sustainability to marine science to environmental management.

Rhode Island College is a federally recognized Green Ribbon School, committed to becoming a model campus for sustainable practices and programs, including energy efficiencies, beekeeping and sourcing locally grown foods. The campus has 50-plus water bottle filling stations, which allow students to reuse the same bottle multiple times. These stations have saved over 1 million water single-use bottles from being discarded. The college has also eliminated single-use plastic products from its dining service. Learn more at

University of Rhode Island (URI) has been recognized by the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s greenest colleges for four consecutive years—scoring higher on the green rating scale than any other state school for academic programs, student activities and other initiatives intended to demonstrate and teach a commitment to sound environmental stewardship. Ways that URI weaves sustainability into the fabric of its values, operations and educational pursuits include:

Much of the produce used in campus dining halls is grown on university farmland or gardens by students in the Food Agriculture Program.

• URI launched one of the nation’s first undergraduate “green business” programs—a four-year, dual-major that combines business and environmental economics.

• The university offers students excellent career planning and guidance services in the environment, sustainability and life sciences to help plan the optimum path through college. Learn more at

Every college should be ready to answer this question from prospective students: “What can you tell me about your focus on sustainability?”


Bentley College:

Northeastern University:

Boston University:

UMass Boston:

Rhode Island College:

University of Rhode Island:


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