Posts Tagged ‘Green Mountain College’

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the 2nd Annual Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, VT.

‘Slow Living’ as described by the organizers; “…is shorthand for taking a more reflective approach to living and work; an approach that is mindful of  impacts on the environment, on Earth, and on communities; and that incorporates resilience —  our ability to “bounce back” from the consequences of climate change, resource depletion and other changes and stresses...“Slow” encodes the transformative change from faster and cheaper to slower and better—where quality, community and the future matter.”

The Summit program was broken into multiple tracks, covering a range of topics including community supported agriculture, media & journalism, sustainable investing & finance, community building, renewable energy, and education to name a few. For a detailed description of the program click here.

Our session was titled, EDUCATION: Sustainability in Higher Education: Leadership by Example? It was moderated by Jerelyn Wilson, Outreach Director at Building Green LLC, and included the following panelist:

  • David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies & Politics, Oberlin College
  • Philip Ackerman-Leist, Director, Farm & Food Project, Green Mountain College
  • Anim Steel, Director of National Programs, The Food Project

Each panelist gave a 10-minute presentation describing our organization, role, and the personal connection to the work that we do. I led off with an overview of Second Nature, the ACUPCC, and a high level assessment of the US college and university sustainability movement. For my personal connection, I gave an abbreviated version on what I shared last year in our Second Nature team series about why we do what we do.

David Orr provided his usual terrific commentary on the higher education sustainability movement, including some historical  context on how formal education contributes to perpetuating an unsustainable society. He also shared his background in the movement including starting the Meadowcreek Project, a 1600 acre wildlife preserve in Arkansas devoted to sustainable education and recreation. He concluded his presentation with his current focus on revitalizing downtown Oberlin, OH. Called The Oberlin Project, it aims is to build a resilient local economy by eliminating carbon emissions, restoring local agriculture, the food supply and forestry, and creating a new, sustainable base for economic and community development.

Philip Ackerman-Leist discussed Green Mountain College’s (GMC) efforts to support Vermont’s rich farming heritage. Current research being conducted at GMC includes the Long Term Ecological Assessment of Low Energy Farming Systems (LEAFS), the Sustainable Purchasing Initiative, the Viability of Flash-Freezing Technologies for enhancing local foods in the institutional and charitable food systems, and Integrating High Tunnel Crop Production & Renewable Energy Systems. GMC is a terrific example of institution’s positive community impact when it makes sustainability a strategic imperative.

Anim Steele, discussed his role in creating the Real Food Challenge and his support of students to have a dialogue with their institutions to commit and help create a healthy, fair, and green food system. The Real Food Challenge is working “to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what we call “real food”—by 2020.” Anim shared that he sees a new generation of students that are comfortable with ‘peapods’ and ‘ipods’, and are integrating their world of technology with the need to move forward to the land.

After the presentations, we engaged in a lively discussion with the participants. We covered a range of topics from how we learn to what is community? I continue to be amazed at the level of work and sophistication that colleges and universities are undertaking to advance sustainability. I want to thank the Slow Living Summit for the opportunity to participate and to share the excellent work being done by colleges and universities to an audience beyond its borders!

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By Georges Dyer, Vice President, Second Nature
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer and originally appeared in The New England Journal of Higher Education on May 21, 2012 )


Preparedness. Opportunity. Innovation. These words capture the essence of higher education’s critical role in creating a healthy, just and sustainable society. Leaders in higher education are standing up to the greatest challenge of our time by providing education for sustainability and preparing graduates to create a sustainable economy. They are providing the opportunity for more students to access higher education by reigning in costs through energy efficiency and smart building. And by demonstrating sustainability solutions on campus, through research, and in partnership with local communities, they are driving the innovation needed for a true and lasting economic recovery.

Five years ago, a small group of visionary college and university presidents gathered to initiate the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). They were motivated by their conviction that higher education had the capacity and responsibility to make a significant commitment to climate and sustainability action for the sake of their students and society.

As the ACUPCC celebrates its fifth anniversary, 677 colleges and universities are currently active members of this dynamic network, representing more than one-third of U.S. college and university students. These institutions across the country have completed hundreds of projects to reduce energy use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money in the process—demonstrating powerful and necessary leadership-by-example for the rest of society.

At the same time, higher education is in crisis. Challenges of accountability, affordability, workforce preparation and relevance are sweeping the sector. The volatile global economy remains unpredictable, with ramifications for every campus. And despite our best efforts, the climate issue becomes more daunting daily.

This month, presidents, provosts and business officers will gather at American University in Washington D.C. for the 5th Anniversary ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit. The summit will directly respond to these challenges with a theme of Economic Renewal: Jump-Starting a Sustainable Economy Through the ACUPCC.


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The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is celebrating five years of higher education’s leadership on the critical issues of our time, with new data from signatories’ public reports showing unprecedented success and innovation in renewable energy, curriculum, energy efficiency, green building, and financial savings. 202 institutions have submitted Progress Reports on their implementation of the commitment in the first five years, showing the following results, which are indicative of progress throughout the network.  While reports are still coming in and numbers are subject to change, preliminary analysis of the latest data shows:

  • Collectively, the ACUPCC represents the 3rd largest purchaser of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in the United States, with 156 Signatories purchasing a total of 1,279,765,254 kWh RECs.
  • 175 signatories report current curriculum offerings include 9,548 courses focused on sustainability
  • 67% of signatories affirmed that their Climate Action Plan has saved their institution money.  Generating total savings of $100 million dollars.
  • The 406 institutions that have submitted more than one GHG inventory have reduced cumulative annual CO2e emissions by approximately 384,000 metric tons — an average of 970 tons per year per institution
  • Reporting signatories show a total renewable energy output of 170,000,000 kwh — the equivalent of powering 14,617 American households electricity for one year.

Through the ACUPCC, higher education has become the only sector in the U.S. with a critical mass committed to the scientifically necessary goal of climate neutrality.  During the first 5 years of the initiative, over 700 colleges and universities in the US signed the ACUPCC, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and every type of public and private institution (2-year, 4-year, research university).  6 million students attend ACUPCC institutions – approximately one-third of all college and university students in the United States. International initiatives modeled after the ACUPCC have launched in Scotland and Peru, and similar initiatives are being explored in Taiwan, Australia, and Hungary.

It is a rare example of a voluntary initiative that includes accountability through the ongoing public reporting process, to which all ACUPCC signatories agree.  All public reports are available on the ACUPCC Reporting System at rs.acupcc.org.

Measuring Success


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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.


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By Meriel Brooks, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Environmental Liberal Arts Program, Green Mountain College
(This article appears in the May, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


Over the last 3 years, supported by a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, the faculty at Green Mountain College (GMC) has restructured an innovative environmentally-focused general education curriculum (the Environmental Liberal Arts program or ELA), revised or created 53 sustainability related or focused courses, and created a system for assessment-driven program revision. With the project nearing completion, what have we accomplished, what have we learned, and what is next?

What should our graduates know and be able to do in order to contribute to a more sustainable world? For 2 days in May of 2008, 45 GMC faculty members brainstormed and debated this question before arriving at an answer in the form of 5 broad goals:

  1. Systems Thinking: Students will understand the structure and dynamics of representative social and natural systems and their interrelationships.
  2. Critical Thinking and Communication: Students will develop and apply strong problem-solving skills and communication skills.
  3. Environmental Awareness: Students will understand the factors contributing to our domestic and global ecological challenges and demonstrate the ability to evaluate proposals for creating a more sustainable future.
  4. Self Awareness and Responsibility: Students will demonstrate ethical responsibility, aesthetic sensitivity, and multicultural awareness.
  5. Liberal Arts Understanding: Students will demonstrate interdisciplinary integration of traditional liberal arts areas.

Green Mountain College Student, Garrison Riegel installs solar panels for a hot water system in the campus barn

For each goal we articulated several associated assessable student learning outcomes (SLOs). We then used these student learning outcomes (SLOs) to drive program revisions. The structure of the ELA is 4 core courses taken by all students plus one course from each of 7 distribution categories. Teams of faculty met to assign specific learning outcomes to the 4 core courses and to 7 distribution areas. As students move through this curriculum, they will encounter courses designed to teach and assess each learning outcome. The faculty passed the new structure of the ELA, its goals and learning outcomes in spring 2009.

The next step was to revise or drop old courses and create new ones to address the set of outcomes assigned to each distribution area. Over the past 2 years the faculty created 21 new courses and revised 32 courses (including the 4 core courses). These courses are all designed for the ELA program and generally do not count in majors. They run a range of topics such as Climate Dynamics, Environmental Justice, Energy and Society, Moral Reasoning, and International Negotiation.


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by Stephen Muzzy, Program Manager, Second Nature

Stephen MuzzyOn April 23, the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) hosted their second annual Sustainability Summit: A Climate Change on Campus. I, along with Ashka Naik, Program Manager for Advancing Green Building and Ilana Schonenfeld, Program Associate – Strategic Initiatives traveled to Worcester, MA to hear from campus executives, faculty, and staff on how they are supporting sustainability efforts at their institutions and beyond.

NEBHE put together a chock full program that included keynotes, concurrent and plenary sessions. Our Second Nature contingent divvied up the day – what follows are the highlights of a very exciting event that demonstrates higher educations leadership to provide the knowledge, skills, and critical mass to transform society to a sustainable future.

The Economic Dynamics of Sustainability on Campus

This session offered examples and data on the financial costs in capital improvements and the operational savings incurred with long term planning. Two excellent examples come from the University of Rhode Island and the University of Maine. Robert A. Weygand, Vice President, Administration & Finance shared that the University of Rhode Island in 2050 will have average annual costs of $7.5 million and annual savings of $18.7 million while reducing MTCO2e 50% below 2005 levels. (Full Presentation)

Greg Havens, Principal, Sasaki Associates discussed the University of Maine’s master plan and how it provides a framework for integrated sustainability strategies. This presentation shared a variety of integrated strategies that fall under the following sustainability metrics in the areas of habitat, water, access/mobility, and energy & emissions. (Full Presentation)

Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Kenneth Hill, Academic Dean of the College of the Atlantic facilitated this session. He took us through the many effective projects, such as the three-day think-tank Delta Project, that the College of Atlantic is undertaking to teach their students about sustainability principles through curricular and co-curricular activities and coursework.  Peter Papesch, Chair of Sustainability Education Committee, Boston Society of Architects, Michele Wakin, Co-coordinator Center for Sustainability, Bridgewater State College and David Levy, Chair, Department of Management and Marketing and Professor of Management, University of Massachusetts Boston, were the panelists for this session.  They discussed various strategies that are currently being implemented by institutions of higher education to holistically educate students about sustainability. The experts also discussed the importance of bridging the inside-the-classroom education with the real-world problem solving in the process.


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by Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA®
(This article appears in the April, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCWe are what we eat. Human beings are made of food. Yet we rarely stop to appreciate where our food comes from, how it was grown or why we’re putting it into our bodies. And if we do ask those questions, we often find it difficult to figure out how our food choices affect our health, our impact on those who grow our food, our environment and how much we enjoy our daily lives.

But there’s a movement afoot to change all of that. There’s a vision being formed of a world where everyone has healthy food and every farm is a healthy business. Slow Food USA is a non-profit organization working within that movement. We help everyday people connect with each other and use the power of their community to create a healthier local food system.

You can join the movement by becoming a member of Slow Food USA. Our network has more than 150,000 members and supporters across the country, organized into 225 volunteer-led chapters. Together, those chapters are working to transform food and farm policy, industry practices and consumer demand to ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.

This is a big task, obviously. Success is going to take passion, dedication and collaboration on the part of millions of citizens who all believe in change. And many of the citizens leading the way – no surprise – are college students.


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