What’s Red and White and Green All Over?

The Dr. Inge P. Stafford Greenhouse for Teaching and Research.

The Dr. Inge P. Stafford Greenhouse for Teaching and Research is one of several facilities having a transformative effect on sustainability education and interdisciplinary learning at Dickinson.

by Christine M. Dugan

Sustainability has long been a defining characteristic of a Dickinson education, and once again The Princeton Review says Dickinson is a top institutions for sustainability education. One of just 24 colleges and universities in the country to be included on this year’s green honor roll, Dickinson is also the only Pennsylvania institution and one of only three liberal-arts colleges to earn this distinction.

The Criteria

The Princeton Review scored 861 institutions to measure their commitment to the environment in education programs, policies and practices; only schools that received a score of 99, the highest possible rating, make the honor roll. Other schools to make the list include Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Stanford universities, Amherst College and the universities of Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Green Honor Roll institutions must show healthy and sustainable strength in three areas: campus life, preparation of students for employment and citizenship in a world defined by environmental challenges, and an overall commitment to environmental issues. Other areas critiqued include energy use, recycling, food, buildings and transportation as well as academic offerings and sustainability-related action plans.

The Road to the Honor Roll

Dickinson students use the campus as a living laboratory to gain hands-on experience addressing and solving sustainability issues. They conduct sustainability research with faculty, grow food for campus consumption at Dickinson’s organic farm, work with community groups monitoring and protecting water quality, collaborate with professional staff to plan Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings and live cooperatively in the Center for Sustainable Living (aka the Treehouse). At Dickinson, students don’t just participate, they initiate—by developing programs such as the student-led Idea Fund, designing and installing solar energy arrays, turning waste vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel, promoting biking through the student-run Handlebar Bike Cooperative and organizing campus energy challenges. 

Most recently on Aug. 5, Dickinson opened the 29,251-square-foot Kline Center expansion, slated to be the fifth LEED-gold-certified facility on campus, which offers athletes and non-athletes alike a sleek, environmentally friendly destination. The college also presents its own award for environmental leadership. The Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism was established to focus attention on the need to reduce the impact of human lives on the planet.

What it all means

The Princeton Review notes that students are increasingly interested in attending "green" colleges. Of the 10,116 college applicants it surveyed in 2014, 61 percent said a college's commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend a school.

As a national leader in sustainability, Dickinson offers more than 100 sustainability courses, integrated throughout the curriculum and across every major. In 2013-14, sustainability-related courses represented 11 percent of the curriculum, with nearly 60 percent of students taking one course and 25 percent taking two or more; 92 percent of the class of 2014 took one or more courses in sustainability.

Dickinson's curricular innovations and its leadership in sustainable campus operations consistently earn national recognition. Sierra magazine has placed Dickinson on its top-10 list of the “Coolest Schools” in the nation, and the college has received the STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Dickinson garnered top marks on the Green Report Card of the Sustainable Endowments Institute and earned Second Nature's inaugural award for Institutional Excellence in Climate Leadership.

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Published August 5, 2014