Great Colleges Environmental Studies

by | Aug 1, 2023

Written by Ada Praun-Petrovic, graduate of the Harker School Class of 2023 and a member of Dartmouth class of 2027. Published by College Kickstart

Many students care deeply about the environment and sustainability and want to incorporate their passion about the Earth into their college experience. But how to choose a college that best facilitates that?

Colleges’ commitment to climate action manifests in a variety of ways. Many colleges focus on implementing sustainability on campus, so students can rest assured that not only is their day-to-day life at the institution they attend eco-friendly, but also that their college is upholding a commitment to care for the environment alongside the students. Some colleges prioritize funding environmental research. Colleges tackle this from different angles, including politics, economics, engineering, ecology, earth science, and more. The research a college conducts is important for prospective undergraduates to consider because they will get to learn directly from the faculty responsible for such meaningful work and may even have the opportunity to contribute to the research themselves. Finally, although most colleges offer some course of study related to the environment, certain colleges go above and beyond, whether that be through the breadth of courses and educational resources focused on sustainability, the strength and rigor of one particular program, or the number of majors beyond environmental science that relate to climate action.

From a multitude of sources with differing perspectives and priorities, we’ve comprised a list of the 30 best colleges for climate action. Continue reading to learn more about each.

Great Colleges for Climate Action and Environmental Studies

We’ve compiled information from the Sierra Club, Times Higher Education, US News, Great Value Colleges, and more sources with different ranking criteria in order to create this well-rounded list of colleges with strengths in different facets of the fight against climate change in education. Each listed institution includes:

  • Academic Profile. The overall admission rate and mid-50th percentile test score breakdowns (ACT/SAT) are provided to help you assess if you’re a competitive applicant.
  • Majors offered. A listing of environmental study majors is provided to give you a sense for the breadth and depth of offerings.
  • Notes. We’ve also provided notes to highlight unique facets to each institution’s approach to climate change and education

Great Colleges for Climate Action and Environmental Studies

InstitutionStateAdmit Rate (%)Mid 50 SAT/ACTMajorsNotes
American UniversityDC411290-1420
  • Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Focuses on addressing climate change through politics through its Center for Environmental Policy
  • Has already achieved carbon neutrality
Arizona State UniversityAZ901110-1310
  • Earth and Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Environmental Design (BA)
  • Environmental Engineering (BSE)
  • Environmental Science (BA or BS)
  • Environmental and Resource Management (BS)
  • Sustainability (BA)
  • Sustainability (BS)
  • Offer a degree in sustainability
  • Operate the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation and the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, which develop sustainable solutions to environmental challenges worldwide
Chatham UniversityPA661060-1250
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Sustainability (BA)
  • Sustainability (BS)
  • Food Studies (BA)
  • Offers degrees in sustainability and food studies
  • Has a dedicated Falk School of Sustainability & the Environment
  • Boasts many hands-on environmental activities, such as its agroecology fields, gardens, and more
  • Students are heavily involved in campus sustainability initiatives
Colby CollegeME71430-1540
  • Environmental Policy (BS)
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Environmental Studies Computation (BS)
  • Furthers climate change research through the Buck Environment and Climate Change Lab, the Russ Cole Research Fellows Program, and more
  • Prioritizes use of renewable energy
  • Has already achieved carbon neutrality
College of the AtlanticME601240-1450
  • Self-designed degree in Human Ecology
  • The entire college has only one major, a self-designed major in human ecology. Students can pursue different concentrations and areas of study.
  • Offers many courses related to sustainability and climate change
  • Has already achieved carbon neutrality with its energy-efficient buildings, waste practices, and more
Colorado State UniversityCO911080-1280
  • Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (BS)
  • Fire and Emergency Services Administration (BS)
  • Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology (BS)
  • Forest and Rangeland Stewardship (BS)
  • Geology (BS)
  • Human Dimensions of Natural Resources (BS)
  • Natural Resource Tourism (BS)
  • Natural Resources Management (BS)
  • Restoration Ecology (BS)
  • Watershed Science and Sustainability (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Offers multiple environmental sustainability programs
  • Prioritizes environmental friendliness on campus with clean energy, green architecture, and more
  • Has a dedicated Warner College of Natural Resources
  • Aims for net zero carbon emissions by 2040
Columbia UniversityNY41500-1560
  • Sustainable Development
  • Environmental Science
  • Earth Science
  • Climate Science
  • Climate System Science
  • Environmental Biology
  • Earth and Environmental Engineering
  • Recently created the Columbia Climate School
  • Offers multiple undergraduate majors related to climate studies
  • Continues to support and follow the Paris Climate Agreement after the US’s withdrawal
Cornell UniversityNY71470-1550
  • Environmental Engineering (BSE)
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (BA/BS)
  • Atmospheric Sciences (BS)
  • Environment and Sustainability (BS)
  • Cornell Climate Smart Solutions Program is a hub for researchers from various disciplines to develop technological solutions to climate problems
  • Atkinson Center for Sustainability is dedicated to researching environmental challenges through the lenses of food, health, energy, and climate
  • Continues to support and follow the Paris Climate Agreement after the US’s withdrawal
Dickinson CollegePA34Test-Free
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Geosciences (BS)
  • Conducts research on sustainability and renewable energy
  • Has already achieved carbon neutrality
  • Prioritizes sustainability on campus, from efficient energy usage to sustainably designed buildings
Duke UniversityNC61490-1560
  • Earth and Climate Sciences (BS)
  • Earth and Climate Sciences (AB)
  • Marine Science and Conservation (BS)
  • Marine Science and Conservation (AB)
  • Environmental Sciences (BS)
  • Environmental Sciences and Policy (AB)
  • Environmental Engineering (BSE)
  • Prioritizes undergraduate research
  • Provides students access to a marine lab and 7,000 acre forest for environment/ecology research
  • Has a dedicated School of the Environment
Harvard UniversityMA31480-1580
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (AB)
  • Environmental Science and Engineering (AB)
  • Environmental Science and Public Policy (AB)
  • Environmental Studies (ALB)
  • Harvard University Center for the Environment fosters climate research in engineering, government, religion, business, chemistry, and history
  • Sponsors other independent climate research projects
  • Continues to support and follow the Paris Climate Agreement after the US’s withdrawal
  • Aims for net zero fossil fuel use by 2026 and no fossil fuel use at all by 2050
New York UniversityNY81470-1560
  • Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Has a dedicated Department of Environmental Studies with different specializations for students to choose from
  • Has a dedicated Office of Sustainability
  • Aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040
  • Recycles energy on campus
Oregon State UniversityOR891120-1370
  • Agriculture and Food Business Management
  • Agricultural Science
  • Botany
  • Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Ecological Engineering
  • Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences (BS)
  • Food Science and Sustainable Technologies
  • Climate Science
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Energy Systems Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Forest Engineering
  • Forestry
  • Natural Resources
  • Has a dedicated College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Provides exclusive research access (for both professors and students) to the OSU Marine and Geology Repository, Ice Core & Quaternary Geochemistry Lab, and Ocean Observatories Initiative
  • Home to the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, which boasts a network of researchers across multiple universities and labs in Oregon
Portland State UniversityOR931080-1290
  • Earth Science (BA)
  • Earth Science (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Science (BA)
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Environmental Studies (BS)
  • Forest Ecology and Management (Certificate)
  • Lake and Resevoir Management (Certificate)
  • Offers several degrees relating to sustainability
  • Has a dedicated Campus Sustainability Office
  • Aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040
  • Derives a significant portion of its energy from solar power
Seattle UniversityWA831160-1360
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Environmental Studies with various specializations
  • Marine and Conservation Biology (BS)
  • Students are engaged in sustainability projects on campus, such as adding solar panels to buildings
  • Is an urban wildlife sanctuary
  • Has a dedicated center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability
  • Is working towards carbon neutrality
Stanford UniversityCA41500-1570
  • Atmosphere/Energy (BS)
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Earth Systems (BS)
  • Environmental Systems Engineering (BS)
  • The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability oversees the Climate Education Project; the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, which offers 5 undergraduate degrees; and more
  • Stanford was the birthplace of the Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, an intellectual hub where experts from different disciplines address environmental challenges and their solutions
State University of New York – BuffaloNY681190-1380
  • Environmental Design (BA)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Environmental Studies (BS)
  • Environmental Sustainability (BA)
  • Faculty boasts climate researchers from interdisciplinary fields, such as law and geology
  • Lauched a climate action plan in 2020 that dictates that the college will try to achieve net zero emissions by the year 2030
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and ForestryNY701120-1300
  • Environmental Biology (BS)
  • Conservation Biology (BS)
  • Forest Health (BS)
  • Wildlife Science (BS)
  • Environmental Resources Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Health (BS)
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Environmental Studies (BS)
  • Environmental Education and Interpretation (BS)
  • Forest Ecosystem Science (BS)
  • Forest Resources Management (BS)
  • Natural Resources Management (BS)
  • Sustainable Energy Management (BS)
  • Most undergraduate degree programs are related to the environment
  • Focuses on sustainable practices on campus, such as low waste, clean energy, and more
  • Aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040
University of California BerkeleyCA11Test-Free
  • Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Conservation and Resource Studies
  • Ecosystem Management and Forestry
  • Society and Environment
  • Boasts one of the top ecology programs in the world
  • Offers a multitude of courses that tackle environmental issues from different angles
  • UC Berkeley’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025
University of California DavisCA38Test-Free
  • Agricultural and Environmental Education (BS)
  • Ecological Management and Restoration (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry (BS)
  • Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning (BS)
  • Environmental Science and Management (BS)
  • Environmental Toxicology (BS)
  • Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity (BA)
  • Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity (BS)
  • Marine and Coastal Science — Coastal Environmental Processes or Marine Environmental Chemistry (BS)
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (BS)
  • Sustainable Environmental Design (BS)
  • Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology (BS)
  • Encourages purchasing only green products for faculty
  • Is converting to renewable energy use
University of California IrvineCA21Test-Free
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Earth System Science (BS)
  • Environmental Science and Policy (BA)
  • Has a Sustainability Resource Center
  • Prioritizes sustainability on campus by conserving water, reducing waste, using clean energy, and more
University of California MercedCA90Test-Free
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Humanities (BA)
  • Environmental Systems Science/Earth and Climate Science (BS)
  • Environmental Systems Science/Ecosystem Science (BS)
  • Is an environmentally friendly campus because of its sustainable design, commitment to conserving resources and reducing waste, and more
  • Aims to achieve zero waste, zero energy usage, and zero greenhouse gas emissions
The University of Colorado, BoulderCO791170-1380
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BA)
  • Environmental Design (BEnvD)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Offers many courses related to climate change and sustainability
  • Aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050
  • Implements sustainable practices on campus
University of ConnecticutCT561230-1430
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Economics of Sustainable Development and Management
  • Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental Studies
  • Natural Resources
  • Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Earth Science Education
  • Students are engaged in institutional sustainability practices
  • Aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040
University of Illinois – Urbana ChampaignIL451350-1510
  • Environmental Economics & Policy
  • Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
  • Sustainability in Food & Environmental Systems
  • and other agriculture-related majors
  • Has a dedicated College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences
  • Provides multiple courses of study and research opportunities dedicated to sustainability
  • Gives students access to Cli-Mate, an internet platform that provides climate data
University of Massachusetts AmherstMA641280-1450
  • Arboriculture and Community Forest Management (AS)
  • Environmental Science (BS)
  • Natural Resource Conservation (BS)
  • Plant and Soil Science (BS)
  • Resource Economics (BS)
  • Sustainable Food and Farming (AS)
  • Sustainable Food and Farming (BS)
  • Sustainable Horticulture (AS)
  • Furthers the Carbon Literacy Project by teaching students and staff about the climate crisis and individuals’ impact on it
  • Prioritize campus sustainability by promoting eco-friendly transportation
The University of New HampshireNH871130-1310
  • Earth Sciences (BA)
  • Earth Sciences (BS)
  • Economics Major: Public Policy and Sustainability Option(BA)
  • Environmental Conservation and Sustainability (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Sciences Major: Ecosystems Option (BS)
  • Environmental Sciences Major: Geosystems Option (BS)
  • Environmental Sciences Major: Hydrology Option (BS)
  • Environmental Sciences Major: Soil and Watersheds Option (BS)
  • Environmental and Resource Economics (BS)
  • Forestry (BSF)
  • Sustainability Dual Major
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (BA)
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (BS)
  • Wildlife and Conservation Biology (BS)
  • Offers a sustainability dual major
  • Offers a multitude of courses relating to climate change and sustainability
  • Focuses on sustainable practices on campus
University of WashingtonWA481320-1500
  • Environmenal Studies (BA)
  • Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management (BS)
  • Earth and Space Sciences (BA)
  • Earth and Space Sciences (BS)
  • Atmospheric Sciences (BS)
  • Marine Biology (BS)
  • Oceanography (BA)
  • Oceanography (BS)
  • Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (BS)
  • Bioresource Science and Engineering (BS)
  • Holds climate justice seminars with their law school
  • Has a strong Program on Climate Change that conducts climate research and even offers a minor and graduate certificate
  • Has a dedicated College of the Environment
University of Wisconsin-MadisonWI491370-1500
  • Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (BA)
  • Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (BS)
  • Conservation Biology (BA)
  • Conservation Biology (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Sciences (BA)
  • Environmental Sciences (BS)
  • Forest Science (BS)
  • Wildlife Ecology (BS)
  • Collaborates with the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, which attempts to remedy negative impacts of climate change on the state of Wisconsin
Yale UniversityCT41470-1560
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (AB)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (BS)
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (AB)
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BS)
  • Environmental Engineering (BS)
  • Environmental Studies (BA)
  • Environmental Studies (BS)
  • Significant student activism
  • Significant research
  • Continues to support and follow the Paris Climate Agreement after the US’s withdrawal
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