Whitman College received some welcome and affirming news just in time for Earth Day: It is one of the country’s most environmentally responsible colleges, according to “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges.”

cover shot The free guidebook, developed in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, lists institutions of higher education that have demonstrated an above-average commitment to sustainability in the areas of campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.

“Students and their parents are becoming more and more interested in learning about and attending colleges and universities that practice, teach and support environmental responsibility,” said publisher Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s senior vice president.

Whitman College, a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, has formally adopted a set of environmental principles encouraging sustainable practices inside and outside of the classroom. In addition, the administration employs students as coordinators and interns to develop on-campus recycling and sustainability initiatives, and offers a $25,000 Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund for projects. On the main campus, all new construction must meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, and Whitman is considered a bike and pedestrian-friendly campus.

Rick Fedrizzi, president of Washington D.C.-based USGBC, which lobbies for supporters of cost-efficient and energy-saving “green” buildings, said that, “Beyond the cost savings to an institution, even the simplest aspects of a green campus, such as increased use of natural light, have been found to improve student learning and quality of life … Green facilities make colleges more attractive to students and can dramatically reduce energy costs.”

Fedrizzi said that “higher education is a top priority market segment for USGBC because graduates of green colleges become incredible drivers of change when they call for similar surroundings in their jobs and communities.”

The Princeton Review, which is not affiliated with Princeton University, chose the 286 schools included in the Guide based on the “Green Rating” scores the schools received in summer 2009 when The Princeton Review published Green Rating scores for 697 schools in its online college profiles and/or annual college guidebooks. The 286 schools in this new “green colleges” guide received scores in the 80th or higher percentile of a numerical scoring system from 60-99 that’s based on several data points.