UNH earns high marks for commitment to sustainability

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
library courtyard

When it comes to sustainability, it’s not easy being green. It takes a “long-term, enduring commitment,” according to Tom Kelly, chief sustainability officer and founding executive director of UNH's Sustainability Institute. And once again, the university’s commitment to sustainability is receiving national accolades. Recently, The Princeton Review named UNH to its “Green College Honor Roll,” and the Sierra Club ranked the university as the 36th greenest college in the nation.


“We’ve been leaders in sustainability since the very beginning, and we continue to ratchet up our commitment in a variety of ways. That’s why we’ve been so consistently on these lists, particularly the Princeton Review’s list,” Kelly says.

UNH has appeared on the Princeton Review’s honor roll multiple times since it was first created in 2008. The Princeton Review scores institutions on areas such as formal sustainability commitments, greenhouse gas inventory plans, transportation alternatives, sustainability degree programs and more. The university is one of 21 schools to receive a score of 99 — the highest green rating available. 

Kelly points to the sustainability dual major program as one of the ways that UNH is making sustainability a part of students’ every-day experience.

“It’s providing a vehicle for students to dig into these issues in a way that builds their capacity to deal with sustainability and empowers them to take it on. We need to keep finding ways to connect students to these kind of experiences,” he says.

The experiences are increasingly important for students, according to the Sierra Club. “More than two-thirds of high schoolers say that whether a college is green factors into their selection process,” the organization notes. 

From Local to Global

Want to know more about the dual major in sustainability?Undergraduates from any major can pair the sustainability dual major with their first major.  

This year, UNH received top marks in sustainability planning from the Sierra Club. Maintaining an ever-evolving slate of sustainability programs takes the combined efforts of students, faculty and staff, not to mention partner organizations across the state and New England region, Kelly says.

From the UNH Energy Task Force, which collects data on greenhouse gas emissions and how they relate to the university’s climate action plan, to the Sustainability Fellows program, which pairs students with partner organizations to work on pressing sustainability issues, there are plenty of paths students can take to get involved. And the opportunities keep growing — one of the latest initiatives is the newly opened Wildcat Stadium, a zero-waste facility.

The latest Sierra Club and Princeton Review rankings “send a message that sustainability is part of who we are as a community — it’s one of our core values,” Kelly says. And, he adds, there’s still more work to do. “The complexity of the many issues involved with sustainability and their interconnectedness is increasing, and the need for responsiveness on a scale that’s commensurate with these challenges is a never ending process. It’s extremely exciting, important work.”