By Jenna Banning
For many young Americans, the college application process is one of the biggest decisions of their lives, and full of many important considerations – the quality of the academic programs, the competitiveness of the sports teams, and the number of campus clubs. But today, students are increasingly adding one more factor to the list – the school’s environmental sustainability.
According to the 2011 Princeton Review, 69 percent of college applicants say that having information about a college’s commitment to environmental issues would contribute to their decision to apply to or attend the school. This is up from 64 percent in 2008, and reflects a growing trend in higher education across the North American continent. As awareness of the importance of protecting our planet’s resources grows, many colleges and universities are seeking to establish or promote their school’s environmentally-friendly programs.
Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, recently hosted a two-day long conference devoted on building these programs, with a particular focus on the value of agriculture and food systems. Neil Leary, director of Dickinson’s Center for Sustainability Education, remarked how the conference’s focus on agriculture is part of a growing societal movement: “Many of our students are deeply interested in food – what we grow and eat, how we grow it, and how we process, transport, distribute and market it. And they are interested for good reason. How societies answer these questions will determine whether we expand access to healthy, nutritious food to a growing world population, while also protecting the planet’s environmental resources and developing resilient, diverse economies and communities.”