In the Mountains, Of the Mountains, For the Mountains—these words are more than a motto to Lees-McRae. They define our place in the community and the world. They guide our decision-making and campus operations.

Since our founding, Lees-McRae has depended on the careful use of the resources found in our mountain home to thrive. The Rev. Edgar Tufts relied on local labor and local materials to build his school, and in turn provided his neighbors with more educational opportunities, better medical care, and access to electricity. It is in this same spirit of mutual benefit that we continue to prioritize sustainability today.  


Lees-McRae will continue to strengthen its campus and the surrounding community by creating a culture of shared responsibility.  

Focus points:  

  • Health and wellbeing  
  • Engagement and awareness 
  • Equity and access 


Lees-McRae will care for the environment, including our local ecosystems, through efficient resource management and low-impact operations.

Focus points:  

  • Alternative transportation
  • Waste and materials
  • Landscape and ecology


Lees-McRae will prepare for the future—including growth and change—by building on its strong and resilient history.

Focus points:  

  • Preparedness
  • Innovation
  • Partnerships
Sustainability at Lees-McRae

STARS Report | July 2022

During the 2021–22 school year, Lees-McRae completed the STARS (Sustainable Tracking Assessment and Rating System) Report, administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. The framework encompasses long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions, as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are embarking on more sustainable practices.

Lees-McRae earned a Bronze rating after submitting its first report. More information about the college's current sustainability priorities and achievements are available in the public report on the AASHE website. 

Past and Present Sustainability Efforts


    Green Team

    In Spring 2018, students in the Outdoor Recreation Management program, Ivanna Knox ’19, Leigh Ann Wilson ’19, Dagny Palmer ’21, and Avery Lineberger ’21, launched a campus-wide environmental initiative known as the Green Team. A $3,000 Truist Leadership Initiative grant, established to bring leadership opportunities to campuses nationwide, allowed the Green Team to implement a recycling plan for both residence halls and academic buildings, a community garden, and compost program. 

    • Recycling: Recycling is available in the Avery Residence Hall laundry room, Tate Residence Hall trash room, lobbies of both Tennessee and Virginia Residence Halls, and the first floor of Baldwin, Bentley, McMillan, and Cannon Residence Halls. Recycling bins are also located in many faculty and staff offices across campus as well as the Shelton Learning Commons and a variety of classrooms. Paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum may be recycled in the same container without the need for sorting.
    • Community Garden: Groups of students, as well as faculty and staff, are invited to rent space in the community garden yearly. The Green Team also facilitates regular weeding and garden maintenance.
    • Composting: Personal composting bins are given out to students, faculty, and staff on campus so food waste can be collected and not discarded. Individuals with compost bins can drop their bin contents at the larger compost bins located in the Community Garden.

    C.R.A.N.K. Crew

    Lees-McRae is designated as a Gold Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists. Our campus advocacy group, C.R.A.N.K. Crew, focuses on educating students and the community on the importance of bicycling. We understand that automobile ownership can be expensive and that utilizing a bicycle or walking as a means of transportation can reduce car usage on campus, contributing to a healthier lifestyle and environment. C.R.A.N.K. Crew works alongside the Campus Bicycle Coordinator in the areas of bicycle, pedestrian, and motorist education and safety; access to bicycles; and improvement of bicycle infrastructure and parking.  


    Outdoor Programs

    Outdoor Programs provides opportunities to participate in outdoor educational experiences while practicing “leave no trace” skills. Participants gain essential leadership skills and are challenged to be actively involved in their environment and their life. Outdoor Programs offers free outdoor equipment rentals to all students, faculty, and staff, and organizes frequent workshops and trips.


    May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

    Students in the Wildlife Biology and Pre-Veterinary Medicine programs get hands-on experience caring for orphaned and injured wildlife at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, one of the only rehabilitation centers operating on a college campus. By caring for local wildlife and educating the public on the importance of protecting ecosystems, Lees-McRae students contribute to conservation efforts in our community and gain the skills they need to continue the work after they graduate.


    Campus Sustainability Month | October 2021

    Lees-McRae participated in Campus Sustainability Month during October 2021. All month long, students, faculty, and staff took part in activities covering various topics related to sustainability, including access and inclusion, buying local, biking advocacy, and healthy living.