Which Final Four School Would Win the Sustainability Playoffs?

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship — aka March Madness — is down to the wire, and we thought it was a good time to evaluate the eco-friendly practices of the final four schools playing for the national title. Which of the four teams would win in a sustainability playoff? Here’s a rundown of the schools and our winning prediction.


Duke University in Durham, N.C., is one of the schools included in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges, thanks in part to its commitment to being carbon-neutral in 10 years. Campus initiatives include:

  • All new construction requires LEED certification. There are currently 29 buildings meeting the standards.
  • The Green Dorm Room created by the Students for Sustainable Living is decked out with 20 eco-conscious items, showing how students can offset carbon dioxide emissions in their own living quarters.
  • Undergraduate degrees are available in ocean, earth and environmental sciences.
  • A fully functional campus farm educates students on food issues.
  • Styrofoam has been banned from Duke eateries.
  • The Climate Action Plan has eliminated coal use and introduced solar power on campus buildings.
  • $50,000 yearly Green Grant Fund.
  • Funding to support transportation alternatives.

Michigan State

Spartan colors aren’t the only thing that is green. Michigan State is also among the universities in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges. Lou Anna K. Simon, the President of Michigan State University, is on a mission to increase sustainable prosperity. The school’s efforts are unstoppable as they research, teach and implement eco-friendly practices and improve the quality of life on campus and around the world. In five years, MSU hopes to reduce gas emissions by 45 percent. Other highlights include:

  • Member of Chicago Climate Exchange.
  • Offers 15 majors that focus on the environment, including environmental engineering and ecological food and farming systems specialization.
  • Green study abroad opportunities.
  • Home to numerous centers for advanced study in community and economic sustainability.
  • Provides on-campus and off-campus community-based green initiatives.
  • Received a $7.8 million grant to help African nations develop sustainable farms.
  • MSU researchers protect endangered tapirs, build robotic fish and turn waste into energy.
  • Grows food year-round using solar energy.
  • Grows food for dining halls on a student-run organic farm.


Even though UW-Madison didn’t make it into the 2014 Princeton Review’s guide, it is serious about water, energy, transportation, materials conservation and waste elimination. Ambitious initiatives are being launched by the university’s Office of Sustainability along with the program, WE CONSERVE.

  • #Wisconservation promotes a 24/7 sustainable lifestyle. The initiative enables people to participate in open discussions on their blog as well on social media.
  • Skill Share Fair teaches sustainable skills like bike maintenance, growing herbs and composting.
  • MOOC Discussion Groups focus on environmental issues like climate change, deforestation, energy, the earth and other conservation topics.
  • Undergraduate and graduate certificates in sustainability are available.
  • The study abroad program offers sustainability abroad programs.


Although the University of Kentucky missed Princeton Review’s list as well, it has been making massive efforts to put in place a sustainability program that advances ecological integrity today and in the future. Recently funded projects include:

  • Outdoor recycling project.
  • Creation of Office of Sustainability.
  • Reusable water bottles for first-year students and water bottle filling stations.
  • Student paid internship programs.
  • Pedalpalooza to promote bicycle use.
  • Undergraduate research grants.
  • Solar PV installation on campus.
  • Storm Water Management Research Project to implement solutions.
  • Rain Garden Project.

Drum Roll Please…

Recognition goes to both Wisconsin and Kentucky for their growing efforts in environmental conservation. But the final comes down to Duke vs. Michigan State. Both have a rich history in promoting sustainability and continue to make huge strides. Winning by a last second 3-pointer against Michigan State, Duke takes the sustainability title this year due to the yearly $50,000 administration investment in green initiatives, a large number of active environmental student organizations and the commitment to being carbon neutral by 2024.

Visit The Dig for an insider’s guide to March Madness and the Princeton Review’s Guide for the report on 330 other schools of higher education that are committed to the future of sustainability.

Which Final Four School Would Win the Sustainability Playoffs? by


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