UMass Amherst lauded as ‘environmentally aware’
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the top 22 among more than 800 colleges nationwide recognized this month as a “Green Honor Roll School” by The Princeton Review. Giving the flagship campus of the Commonwealth’s public university system a perfect 99 on a 99-point scale this week, the Review’s annual Best 378 Colleges guide salutes schools for being “environmentally aware and responsible institutions.”
Specifically, the reviewers say the ranking considers whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable, how well a school is preparing students not only for employment in the clean energy economy of the 21st century, but also for citizenship in a world now defined by environmental challenges, and how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are.
This is the third time in four years that UMass Amherst has been recognized by the Princeton Review for its sustainability programs and accomplishments, but a first for making the honor roll. President Obama’s administration saluted UMass Amherst as a national leader in sustainable higher education in 2012 when the campus won first place among 1,500 colleges in the White House Campus Champions of Change competition for its Permaculture Initiative.
“It is very heartening that not only are our students making a huge impact with their passion for sustainability and environmentfriendly practices in all areas of campus life,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a news release, “but our faculty and staff also are wholeheartedly supportive.”
At UMass Amherst, sustainability is part of academic life — more than 250 courses include some emphasis on the topic and 25 of the almost 90 undergraduate majors are sustainability- related. Also, three new graduate programs encourage advanced study in sustainability, including an accelerated master’s in sustainability science.
In addition to student involvement, the campus has made notable strides in reducing its carbon footprint. The EPA-award-winning central heating plant provides 100 percent of heating and 73 percent of electrical needs on campus, while a comprehensive recycling and composting program diverts 56 percent of waste from landfills. Every new building since 2011 has been certified LEED Gold, and 13 LEED-registered projects are now underway.
The university’s dining service purchases 28 percent of its produce locally, and is one of the largest in-house dining programs to sign the Real Food Challenge Commitment. The new Sustainability Engagement Fund set to begin this fall will award grants to students, faculty and staff to develop sustainable solutions for campus.