College is like going through puberty all over again: you learn, you grow, you change and you shape how you want to live your life. Rather than simply submitting to the clichéd, disaffected-youth lifestyle, college students are realizing the amount of power and responsibility that comes with their newfound freedom and transition into adult life. Here are the top 10 colleges in the U.S. that are leading the way in fashioning “green citizens” of tomorrow.

College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME). This liberal arts college literally brainwashes you into going green. Okay – not really, but at the College of the Atlantic, the only field of study offered is Human Ecology. With a student body of only 350 students, this eco-committed college shows that caring for the environment begins with a “green” education.

The Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA). The name says it all. Considering the fact that 800 of their 1,000 acre campus consists of woods, forest and saltwater beach, this college knows not to disturb Mother Nature. Their long list of eco-friendly activities includes using 100 percent of their electricity from green sources and building their state’s first public LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certified building.

Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH). Oberlin hosted its first Ecolympics in 2008, where students competed in their dorms for a four-week period to see who was most green. They also have a 100-kilowatt solar parking pavilion, and their distinguished Environmental Studies building recycles 100 percent of their waste water and has the largest solar array in its state.

Harvard University (Cambridge, MA). One look at their “Sustainability at Harvard” Web page and it’s evident why they’re on this list. These brainiacs put their heads to good use through innovative campus-wide green activities, such as replacing over 2,600 standard shower heads with low-flow shower heads and swapping office supplies. As they say, “one department’s trash becomes another’s treasure.”

Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA). This college is moving forward with a new central energy plan that expects to reduce energy consumption in their buildings by one-third. In addition they boast a campus fleet of hybrid cars, a free bike rental service and their very own Dickinson College Organic Farm.

Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT). One of their most original recycling methods is the collaboration between their dining services and the athletics department, where they fuel their ski team vehicles with waste vegetable oil. They also have student-run organic gardens which hire student workers, and promising investments in solar arrays, wind turbines and a biomass facility to use wood chips to generate power.

Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH). Besides purchasing food from 15 local farms, using composted food waste on school grounds and purchasing 2,000 megawatt-hours each of renewable energy, their sustainability initiative includes a coalition of student groups who annually travel cross-country on the “Big Green Bus” to educate others on climate issues.

Berea College (Berea, KY). They are known for their innovative EcoVillage dorm complex, which implements a 75 percent reduction in energy and water usage. Their Sustainability and Environmental Studies Program also includes 1000 acres of college farms and gardens, and 8,000 acres of college forests, which serve as ecology labs and studies for students.

Columbia University (New York, NY). Despite fast-food chains around every corner of the city, Columbia hosts a farmers market twice a week, uses biodegradable to-go containers and sells campus-grown produce in one of its dining halls. Its college dorms are also undergoing green renovations with features such as an energy monitoring system.

University of California (UC system, CA). These “Golden State” universities enjoy their greenery and they want it to stay that way. UC Berkeley has a certified organic kitchen, while UCLA developed a bicycle master plan to encourage green transportation. The UC system has boldly pledged to achieve zero waste by 2020 on all of its 10 campuses.

Sources: The Daily GreenThe College Sustainability Report Card

Photos (from top to bottom): an organic farm at Evergreen State College and the Environmental Studies building at Oberlin College; photos from The Daily Green, courtesy of Evergreen State College and Oberlin College.

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