Green Mountain College receives Second Nature’s 2nd Annual Climate Leadership Award. Award recipients were recognized at the 5th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Summit in Washington, DC on June 23rd, hosted by George Washington University.
The story of Green Mountain College’s (GMC) sustainability achievements began in 1995, when it adopted an environmental liberal arts mission. The faculty created a 37-credit general education curriculum that focuses on teaching all students how to take responsibility for the health of their natural and social environments. In 2006, GMC became the first College in Vermont to sign the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), embracing the challenge to accelerate the College’s progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability. Its first GHG inventory, completed in 2007, drew attention to the significant emissions from its #6 fuel oil heating plant. That year, students in an honors seminar explored alternatives and paid for a biomass feasibility study using their Student Campus Greening Fund. In 2008, President Paul J. Fonteyn and the College’s Board of Trustees, recognizing the foresight of these students, invested in the conversion of the heating plant into a combined heat and power system powered by woodchips.
Simultaneously, the Campus Sustainability Council (CSC) addressed transportation issues, thermal conservation and waste reduction. Over the past decade GMC has invested an average of $1.2 million/year in projects to improve its energy efficiency, including window replacements, steam line upgrades, and lighting retrofits. The 2009 carbon inventory showed a 19.8% reduction in carbon emissions per student from the 2007 baseline.
This year, GMC achieved climate neutrality using the standards of the ACUPCC. Construction of a biomass plant, multi-year investment in energy efficiency projects, and an innovative partnership with its local utility enabled the College to become climate neutral. ACUPCC guidelines served as a roadmap to the goal. GMC students advanced carbon reduction strategies across the College’s operations; faculty integrated carbon inventories and climate action planning into the curriculum.
The combination of efficiency projects and the biomass plant is projected to reduce CO2e emissions from 5789 MT in FY 2007 to 2729 MT in FY 2011. GMC’s climate action plan called for purchasing carbon offsets in 2011 to achieve neutrality. CSC brought three offset providers to campus for public presentations. The campus community expressed a preference for local offset projects that make a strong social and economic impact. The College chose to continue its five-year partnership with Central Vermont Public Service, which verified its offsets produced by CowPower farm methane projects and retired them on the Chicago Climate Exchange. GMC acquired 31,000 MT of offsets, equaling an average of 5,000 MT of offsets per year for the last six years, almost double the number required to cover the CO2e emissions counted by the ACUPCC, enabling the University to offset additional emissions associated with its supply chains.
The College climate action plan calls for 10% further reductions within nine years, thereby reducing offsets and/or increasing GMCs ability to offset more of the carbon associated with its supply chains. New courses use the biomass plant, e.g. examining sustainable sourcing of the wood and developing proposals for use of wood ash. Students are learning how groups of dedicated individuals can dramatically increase the sustainability of a community.