UMass ranks among nation’s greenest universities

By William Perkins

Hannah Cohen/Daily Collegian
Three colleges in the Pioneer Valley have been listed among the most environmentally friendly schools in the nation, one being the University of Massachusetts.

UMass, Hampshire College and Smith College have all been included in The Princeton Review’s “Guide to 286 Green Colleges,” released earlier this year.

The guide was compiled in cooperation with the U.S. Green Building Council, which is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable design and construction. It does not rank colleges in any particular order, lauds the schools for the various environmental programs that they have on their campuses.

Representatives from each of the schools say that their institutions’ environmental and conservation efforts are immense.

UMass Sustainability Coordinator Josh Stoffel said that there is much activity with green initiatives on campus.

“The most important thing is that the approach we’re taking here at UMass around sustainability is comprehensive,” he said.

Stoffel said that, through the college’s Environmental Performance Advisory Committee, UMass has been able to develop expedited design guidelines for new, eco-friendly buildings on campus. Through another program that funds projects that help to upgrade utilities and infrastructure on campus, he said, the school has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent over the last six years.

“We have a huge commitment to energy conservation on this campus,” Stoffel said.

“On any given year we’re funding between one million and three million dollars worth of projects,” he said.

Stoffel said UMass is also helping to reduce waste by implementing compost programs at many dining facilities on campus.

He added that the integration of an Eco-Rep program and the start-up of a similar program for just faculty and staff have also boosted environmental efforts at the school.

At Hampshire College, efforts to sustain the environment are deeply rooted in the school’s tradition, said Director of Communications Elaine Thomas.

“Sustainability and the environment have been part of the ethos of Hampshire College since its founding in 1970,” Thomas said.

Besides making the cut on The Princeton Review guide, Hampshire has also been ranked No. 10 on the list of the top 100 Coolest Schools in the nation by the Sierra Club’s eponymous magazine. The magazine’s rankings were determined from survey results of conservation efforts at schools across the country.

The school also recently received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification for its eco-friendly efforts in the construction of a new wing of the college’s Jerome Liebling Film Photo Center, which has been named in honor of filmmaker Ken Burns, an alumnus of the school.

Hampshire is also working on a number of other projects to cut down on emissions and energy consumption.

Smith College is making efforts to make the campus more sustainable are occurring across a number of spectrums.

Deirdre Manning, Director of Environmental Sustainability at the women’s liberal arts school, said that they have been taking steps to save energy.

“We have a very aggressive energy conservation program,” said Manning.
Through cogeneration facilities, which work to recycle energy, the college has been able to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as half, she said. Smith, along with many other colleges in the region, also has an effective composting program up running, and has been integrating environmental studies into its academic programs.

“We’ve made great strides on the energy front,” Manning said. “We’ve got a very active sustainability committee that has a quarter-representation of students.”

Stoffel and Thomas also stressed student involvement in green efforts on their campuses.

“The big take home message is that the underpinning of all of this stuff that is going-on on campus is based on student involvement,” Stoffel said. “That’s really the crux of what we do.”

William Perkins can be reached at [email protected]