Guilford’s sustainability efforts recognized by Princeton Review

Every year, “The Princeton Review” releases its annual “Guide to Green Colleges,” which serves as an overview of the most environmentally committed colleges and universities nationwide. In late October of this year, Guilford College was named among the “Most Environmentally Friendly” colleges, with a score of 95 on a 99-point scale.

Guilford boasts several features that make it a more sustainable college than most. The size and scope of the on-campus garden is certainly unparalleled compared to other schools, especially considering the relatively small student population. College Values Online ranks the Community Garden as one of the top 30 sustainable college-run farms.

Guilford is unique in offering the major Sustainable Food Systems (or “SFS” for short). SFS became a major in 2016.

Senior Sydney Singleton, an SFS major herself, describes it as “a diverse major that is connected with studies of agriculture, food policy and food access.” She says, “I would say there are a diverse group of people within the major that are interested in various aspects of sustainability.”

The solar panels on nine buildings at the College make up what has measured as “one of the nation’s largest college solar hot water projects.” A majority of these solar panels were installed in the early 2010s, initiating changes which FLS Energy of Asheville described as “raising the solar bar for all colleges and universities … across the nation” in a spring 2010 issue of the “Guilford College Magazine.”

The solar panels have since been a focal point in the College’s literature and promotion as a “green school.” Those efforts clearly paid off back then and continue to pay off now, as Guilford College is now being recognized by “The Princeton Review” for the second year in a row.

Guilford also has a dedicated Director of Environmental Sustainability, David Petree, who has been in the position of director since 2011 and has worked at Guilford for over 20 years. Over the past decade, the College has not just installed significant alternative power sources. Guilford has also seen additional growth in areas such as water conservation, with the installation of dual-flush toilets which help save thousands of gallons per year and with increased composting efforts, which the school estimates keeps around a thousand pounds of waste per week out of Greensboro landfills.

The school is committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2047, a target close to the EU’s carbon-neutral by 2050 plan proposed this summer by António Guterres, chief of the United Nations.

Despite the environmental progress made in recent years, are there ways the College can improve or create additional sustainable solutions? Depending on who you ask, there are answers as diverse as eliminating dumpsters to installing more solar panels to energy-producing gym equipment.

When asked her perspective on the matter as an SFS major, Singleton suggested that a student-education perspective might be the answer, “allowing the campus as a whole to understand the importance of conservation and sustainability efforts.”

While it is true “The Princeton Review” rating brings a sense of pride to the college and confirms that there have been positive strides made, that does not automatically mean that everything possible is being done in the name of sustainability.

Singleton added, “making sure that (we) as individuals … understand our impact as college students and consumers” would bring positive change most of all, pointing out that despite external validation, change at Guilford must continue to come from within — indeed, within members of the College community itself.


Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 5 of The Guilfordian on Nov. 8 2019.