Virginia Tech ranks No. 12 among a list of environmentally responsible universities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, according to The Princeton Review.

The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges 2019 profiles higher education institutions that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability across campus infrastructure, academics, career preparation, and more.

Sustainability is integral to the fabric of Virginia Tech as the university pursues enhanced environmental stewardship, education of future leaders, and increased opportunities for discovery and collaboration — themes underscored throughout Virginia Tech’s strategic plan, the Virginia Tech Difference: Advancing Beyond Boundaries.

This is the 10th consecutive year Virginia Tech has received Green College recognition, earning a green rating of 97 out of a possible 99 points. Green Colleges 2019 reviewed nearly 700 higher education institutions, featuring 413 environmentally responsible schools.  

The guide highlighted Virginia Tech’s Climate Action Commitment (VTCAC) as a distinguishing award factor. Approved in 2009 and reaffirmed in 2013, the VTCAC serves as a cornerstone for guiding the university toward a greener, more sustainable future.

From bolstering student engagement in sustainability through the award-winning Office of Sustainability Internship Program, to reducing energy consumption and emissions on campus, to promoting recycling and conservation, VTCAC continues to touch upon all aspects of university sustainability, including campus operations, facilities, curriculum, and research.

Along with the VTCAC, the Green Colleges guide cited LEED building certification on the Virginia Tech campus, Virginia Tech Dining Services’ sustainable garden at Kentland Farm, and assimilation of sustainability concepts into academics and hands-on student learning opportunities.

The guide emphasized Virginia Tech’s 2017-18 STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System, measures sustainability in all aspects of higher education. It is the most recognized framework for reporting university sustainability performance across academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, innovation, and leadership.

Virginia Tech was also recently featured among Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools for 2019,” ranking in the top 25 percent of educational institutions in the country. Cool Schools uses STARS data for its publication.

“Virginia Tech’s continued national recognition in sustainability is reflective of a campus-wide commitment to environmental stewardship across all levels of the university. Engagement with the campus community, especially with students, the next generation of sustainability leaders, will remain vital in all of our efforts,” said Chris Kiwus, associate vice president and chief facilities officer.

The Green Colleges Guide is frequently consulted by prospective students and their parents when determining where to apply to college. In fact, nearly two-thirds of teens and parents polled by The Princeton Review have said that “having information about a college's commitment to the environment would affect their decision to apply to or attend the school.”

Student engagement in campus sustainability remains critical to the Green Colleges Guide ranking criteria. From the Sustainability Internship Program to ongoing tabling events, tree planting, and volunteer opportunities throughout the year, there are rich opportunities for students to engage in sustainability at Virginia Tech.

“Participating in sustainability-related activities at Virginia Tech have opened so many doors to new hands-on learning experiences I’ll be able to take with me throughout my educational and professional careers,” shared Emily Vollmer. Vollmer, a senior majoring in environmental resource management, has served as an undergraduate intern with the Office of Sustainability for the past three years, leading an intern team committed to promoting energy conservation on campus.

Virginia Tech sustainability fast facts

  • Green RFP Program: More than $1 million has been dedicated to student-requested sustainability projects at Virginia Tech since 2010.  Learn more.
  • Academics: Nearly 900 courses include sustainability-related curriculum and over 68 percent of students are engaged in sustainability-related research.
  • Energy: Since 2016, under the Energy Action Plan, the university has reduced its carbon emissions by about 23,000 tons per year and saved over $3 million in energy costs; full integration of the plan is expected to yield more than $6 million in overall energy cost savings.
  • Reduction of campus GHG emissions: Virginia Tech has achieved steady progress in reducing GHG emissions. Much of that reduction is attributable to the increased use of natural gas as the university’s primary fuel source, introduction of Boiler Pollution Reduction initiatives, and many energy conservation measures. Between FY 2018 and FY 2019, there was a 5 percent decrease in total GHG emissions.
  • Conversion to natural gas: Between FY 2010 and FY 2019, Virginia Tech power plant fuel consumption has remained relatively steady with a 75 percent decrease in coal use as Virginia Tech has switched to cleaner-burning natural gas. Power plant GHG emissions have been reduced over the past five years due to this change in fuel source.
  • Recycling and waste: For calendar year 2018, the university’s recycling rate was 40.8 percent; the waste diversion rate was close to 70 percent. Learn more about the university's recycling efforts.
  • Alternative Transportation: Only 29 percent of Virginia Tech students cite single-occupancy vehicles as their primary mode of transportation. Learn more about the Alternative Transportation Department.
  • Virginia Tech Dining Services: More than 250,000 meals have been served in reusable to-go containers since 2014. More than 5,000 tons of organic waste has been sent from Virginia Tech dining facilities to be composted since 2009. Learn more.
  • LEED buildings: Virginia Tech currently has 32 LEED Registered Buildings totaling nearly 2.5 million gross square feet (16 certified; four occupied and pending certification; five under construction; and seven in design). All new buildings in the construction design phase greater than 5,000 gross square feet, or the renovation of such buildings where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, must conform to LEED Silver standards. Learn more.

Recent sustainability awards

  • 2019 APPA Sustainability Innovation Award for Facilities Management, Green RFP Program. Learn more.
  • 2019 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award, Office of Sustainability Internship Program. Learn more.
  • 2019 Tree Campus USA Reaccreditation. Learn more.
  • 2019 Campus Master Plan Beyond Boundaries 2047 received the SCUP “Excellence in Planning for an Existing Campus” Merit Award. Learn more.

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