The Greenest College in America?

Campus visit to Dickinson College makes impression on environmentally conscious Howard County family.

‘Tis the season for high school students to visit institutions of higher education. Our son, Elliot, an 11th grader at , has been touring schools large and small, public and private, looking for a good fit. We visited several schools in our home state of Maryland and are now venturing out to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware.

I lobbied hard to add Dickinson College to the list because of its great reputation for being a sustainable institution. I was pleased when Elliot seemed eager to drive the two hours to Carlisle, PA, to check it out.

We weren’t disappointed.

As if he had been prompted for my benefit, President William G. Durden spoke at length during his welcoming remarks about Dickinson’s global perspective and commitment to being green. In fact, Durden claimed that Dickinson was the greenest college in America. We came away from our visit believing him, although we wondered what the students would say at Oberlin College (in Ohio), home to the first entirely solar-powered academic building at any U.S. college or university.

Six miles outside of town, a variety of produce is grown on Dickinson’s 180-acre farm. Much of this food is served in the school’s cafeterias. Although most of its farmland is currently leased for hay, beginning next year it will be used to raise grass-fed, free-range beef cattle.

Two of the college’s buildings are LEED gold and there is even a vegetable-oil-fired steam plant on campus. These initiatives plus others have yielded numerous awards and accolades for Dickinson from the likes of the Sierra Club, Princeton Review and Sustainable Endowments Institute.

When the director of admissions saw a Sustainable Growth logo on my shirt, she extended a special invitation to visit to the school’s Center for Sustainability Education, where we met Assistant Director Lindsey Lyons. The center is an impressive former Superfund site that has been reclaimed and now houses Earth science, psychology and environmental studies classrooms and laboratories.

Lyons encouraged us to walk a short distance to the Treehouse, an alternative dorm where 14 students strive for the smallest carbon footprint that they can manage. While snapping a photo of the building (see above), which essentially consists of three two-story townhouses and an atrium that joins them together, a very kind young woman invited us inside for a look around. It was very Scandinavian in its appearance, with a warm, minimalist décor. The common area had a pellet stove, clerestory windows and clotheslines strung near the ceiling where damp laundry was hung to dry.

It’s too early to tell if Dickinson is the right place for Elliot, but I wouldn’t mind hanging out there for a while!

This post originally appeared on www.GreenBusinessMatters.com.

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OldPhil December 10, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Do the students at the alternative dorm do their laundry by pounding it with rocks at the nearby stream (certified "green" of course)?


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