From slashing its water use by 15 percent to hundreds of classes that feature sustainability, UConn climbed from fifth-place to the top of this year's list of green colleges. "This year, our editorial focus was a little bit more on academic stuff that it usually is and UConn really, really was a standout in that realm," said Avital Andrews, lifestyle editor for Sierra Magazine, which has been ranking schools for seven years.
This year, 162 schools submitted optional surveys. "In addition to standing out in all the brick and mortar stuff they do on campus in terms of reducing their water use and reducing their energy use." UConn has focused on sustainability for the past 10 years and was ranked the fifth greenest school last year. But over the past year, the university has stepped up measures by launching an environmental studies department and opening a water reclamation facility. “Since 2005, the main campus, the one in Storrs, slashed its water use by 15 percent. Also, over the past two years more than a dozen of its buildings got retrofitted. And that annually prevents about 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions," Andrews said.
Richard Miller directs the college's environmental policy. He says sustainability spans from administrative strategy to nearly all aspects of campus life. UConn is working to be carbon neutral by 2050 and campus-wide building efficiency has saved about $2 million in annual energy costs, Miller said. But students and faculty are key in making Storrs green. "When the students return in the fall, we're gonna have programs like -- we call it Eco Madness -- which is an energy and water conservation effort in the dorms. We even get involved with athletics, which I think is important at any Division one, certainly, university. We have green game days where we have volunteers help the fans recycle bottles and cans in the tailgate areas. We'll be at the Maryland game this year," Miller said.
Last year, Yale was named the 8th greenest school, but it did not compete this year.