College of the Atlantic student Agim Mazreku ’20, right, joins others installing solar panels on a business in one of the communities near COA's Bar Harbor campus. Sustainability education at College of the Atlantic integrates community involvement and real-world experiences with academic work.College of the Atlantic student Agim Mazreku ‘20, right, joins others installing solar panels on a business in one of the communities near COA's Bar Harbor campus. Sustainability education at College of the Atlantic integrates community involvement and real-world experiences with academic work.

The Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), ranks COA’s curriculum at number 6 among over 300 schools for creating learning opportunities in sustainability, immersive experiences, and sustainability literacy for its students.

“The sustainability work we do here emerges from the passions and dedication of our students, who, through their academic studies, research, develop, and execute specific projects focused on energy, food, waste, materials, and other topics” said College of the Atlantic President Dr. Darron Collins ’92. “Sustainability is built into our bones.”

College of the Atlantic students use a Solar Pathfinder to determine photovoltaic power potential in different areas of campus. Students are involved directly with all of COA's sustainability initiatives, often through their academics.College of the Atlantic students use a Solar Pathfinder to determine photovoltaic power potential in different areas of campus. Students are involved directly with all of COA's sustainability initiatives, often through their academics.COA’s Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative, which aims to cultivate effective advocates for renewable energy and climate change issues, is featured in the publication. The Index also recognizes COA as a leader in maintaining campus grounds while minimizing the use of toxic chemicals, protecting wildlife habitat, and conserving resources.

“The Thoreau Initiative at COA has opened up new opportunities for students to build skills and tools for leadership and effective advocacy on issues of energy, climate, and food justice,” said COA global environmental politics professor and Initiative organizer Dr. Doreen Stabinsky. “Funding from the Thoreau Foundation has enabled us to sharpen our focus on systemic injustices, such as racism, that must be challenged as we work to build just and equitable energy, climate, and food systems.”

Many COA students have worked with the Thoreau Initiative and through the school’s human ecology curriculum and community governance system to advocate for and accomplish campus sustainability projects. These include COA’s Energy Framework, which calls for a fossil fuel free campus by 2030, and their Discarded Resource and Material Management Policy, which lays out goals and plans for 90% diversion of campus waste by 2025.

“We are pleased to highlight College of the Atlantic in this year’s Sustainable Campus Index,” said AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “We hope that the efforts and progress made by COA will help to continuously advance sustainability within higher education and also help lead to a more equitable and ecologically healthy future for society as a whole.”

College of the Atlantic student Andrea Fontana ’19 delivers a statement on behalf of the Climate Justice Now coalition to an opening plenary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 23rd Conference of the Parties. Through coursework and initiatives like the Thoreau Environmental Leaders, COA students study global climate politics and other sustainability issues.College of the Atlantic student Andrea Fontana ‘19 delivers a statement on behalf of the Climate Justice Now coalition to an opening plenary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 23rd Conference of the Parties. Through coursework and initiatives like the Thoreau Environmental Leaders, COA students study global climate politics and other sustainability issues. Credit: Aura Silva Martinez ’18

The Sustainable Campus Index ranks and highlights colleges and universities that submitted a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report in the most recent calendar year. STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

STARS was developed by AASHE with broad participation from the higher education community. The credits included in STARS span the breadth of higher education sustainability and are organized into four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & COA students working with the school's Community Energy Center use a Solar Pathfinder to determine solar energy potential at a Hancock County, Maine business.COA students working with the school's Community Energy Center use a Solar Pathfinder to determine solar energy potential at a Hancock County, Maine business.Administration. All reports are publicly accessible on the STARS website. For more information, visit stars.aashe.org.

AASHE empowers higher education faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE enables members to translate information into action by offering essential resources and professional development to a diverse, engaged community of sustainability leaders. We work with and for higher education to ensure that our world’s future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges. 

College of the Atlantic is premised on the belief that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enabling students to actively shape the future. A leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship, COA was named the #1 Green College in the U.S. by The Princeton Review and the Sierra Club in 2016 and 2017. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree.