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Campus Greens 

Which Vermont college campuses are making the grade on sustainability?

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This fall, colleges and universities that try to pass themselves off as “green” will face an inconvenient truth: It takes more than bathroom stalls stocked with recycled toilet paper, or separate waste bins for glass, paper and plastic, to earn even a passing grade on environmental sustainability. And with each new year, schools will be graded on an ever-steeper curve.

In 2008, college students, faculty and staff are savvier than ever on environmental issues, and they’re asking all the right questions: “Is the food in our cafeteria grown locally and organically?” “Are the dorms and classrooms cleaned with nontoxic chemicals?” “Does our school have an e-waste policy that keeps heavy metals out of the landfills?” “Is our campus powered by any renewable energy sources?” And to every “no” answer, the next question is, “Why not?”

From green buildings to carbon credits, from travel-reduction plans to socially responsible investments, it’s work for colleges and universities to boost their green grade point average. As a result, more and more schools around Vermont are making that work a full-time job.

“This is becoming a very complex set of questions to manage,” notes Gioia Thompson, director of the University of Vermont’s Office of Sustainability. In the last few years, several Vermont colleges and universities, including UVM, Champlain College, Middlebury College and St. Michael’s College, have hired “sustainability coordinators” to collectively reduce their ecological footprint.

In some cases, those efforts have been recognized nationally, at least according to the ever-growing list of college sustainability rankings that are now published annually by various businesses, magazines and nonprofit organizations. For instance, the Sierra Club’s current issue of Sierra Magazine ranks the top 10 “coolest schools” for fighting global warming and treading more lightly on the planet. Topping the list this year is Middlebury College, with UVM claiming the number 3 spot.

An even more comprehensive survey, the “College Sustainability Report Card,” is published each fall by the nonprofit group Sustainability Endowments Institute (SEI). Using 39 criteria in eight different categories — administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement — SEI grades the sustainability practices of the 200 largest institutions of higher learning in North America. This year, Middlebury and UVM were among the top six schools recognized as “overall college sustainability leaders.”

Alas, since inclusion on SEI’s report card is predicated on the size of a school’s endowment, Middlebury and UVM were the only Vermont schools that were evaluated. Nevertheless, many smaller colleges and universities around the state are doing their part to green up their campuses, even if they’re not garnering high-profile kudos.

Which is why Seven Days decided to conduct its own survey. Vermont’s 22 other colleges and universities were each sent a list of questions based loosely on the criteria SEI used in its report. (For simplicity’s sake, we omitted many of the questions about investment practices, largely because most small schools have little or no endowment money to invest.)

Admittedly, our survey wasn’t as scientific as SEI’s, and relied on schools to self-report their own progress. That said, our goal wasn’t to rank Vermont’s colleges from best to worst, or humiliate those that may lack the resources to do more. Instead, we simply wanted to find out how much time and effort these schools’ boards, administrators and staffs have spent examining their own footprints.

Plenty, as it turns out. Of the 22 schools we contacted, 16 responded, either by phone or in writing. Those who did were excited to highlight the various steps, however modest, they’ve taken to reduce their waste streams, cut their greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and invest in alternative energy vehicles.

A few caveats: As several administrators pointed out, surveys such as these should be taken with a grain of salt. Being a signatory to a nationwide plan for achieving carbon neutrality is an ambitious goal. But it’s not the same thing as powering half your campus with electricity derived from cow manure, as Green Mountain College now does. (Last year, the Poultney school received a Campus Sustainability Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.)

Similarly, writing a green-purchasing policy is a commendable effort, if it’s followed. But Burlington College, which hasn’t done so yet, still buys most of its products from local vendors, including caps and T-shirts made from organic cotton, school mugs made out of corn husks, and pens made from recycled tires and old denim.

Some schools with limited resources, such as Vermont Technical College, may not buy a lot of organic or local food. But VTC supports local growers in other ways, such as by hosting a farmers’ market each Wednesday, which includes vegetables grown in its own community gardens. The school also has 400 dairy cows whose milk is shipped off campus and sold in the state. And, much of the school’s non-recyclable waste paper is used for animal bedding.

As UVM’s Thompson points out, just because a well-endowed university invests in buildings that are LEED-certified — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a system for rating the design and construction of green buildings — doesn’t necessarily mean it has a smaller footprint than a smaller school with less energy-efficient buildings.

Community College of Vermont, for instance, which doesn’t have a central campus but uses smaller learning centers dispersed throughout the state, may have a higher percentage of its students commuting shorter distances via mass transit. Also, one-third of its classes are taught online or via “distance education.” And, because it puts more students and staff into smaller buildings that occupy less space — thereby consuming fewer resources on landscaping, lighting, central heating, etc.— it may actually have a smaller per-student footprint than many larger institutions.

It should be noted that 14 colleges and universities now belong to the Vermont Campus Sustainability Network. The group’s goal is to help all of its member institutions share information and resources and ultimately create “a more just, equitable and environmentally sustainable future.”

Finally, while most of the administrators we contacted lauded our survey efforts, they also expressed the view that actions speak louder than words. As Burlington College President Jane Sanders put it, “What’s important is not what you write, but what you do.”

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Burlington College, Burlington

200 students, 34 faculty and staff • 2 acres

Respondent: Jane Sanders, president

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

No, but it’s threaded throughout entire catalogue and documents and incorporated into mission statement rewritten last year.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

No. But everyone who does purchasing or does decision-making has sustainability in their directives.

Green purchasing policy

No, but do buy local, organic, recycled and sustainable whenever possible. Sell items made of recyclable materials, including mugs made of corn husks, caps of organic cotton, non-petroleum-based pens made of recycled tires and old denim. All publications printed locally on recycled paper with soy-based inks. Buy low-VOC paints and carpets.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No. But all water heaters have been redone; examining solar water heaters. Wrote grants on energy efficiency. Plan to replace all windows in old buildings with energy-efficient ones.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

No, but have taken conservation measures; plans in works to use solar and possibly wind generation in new building.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. No food plan, but try to buy locally. Have a 0.2-acre organic community garden.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No. But currently planning a new LEED-certified academic building, with green roof, which will reduce parking on campus and encourage more mass transit, ped/bike travel. (Construction starts 2010.)

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

No fleet vehicles. Will join CATMA when new building goes up. Campus is next to bike path, encourage carpooling, mass transit, bike/ped.

Socially responsible investment policy

“Very, very small endowment.” Doesn’t specify SR in policy but is carried out.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Not yet, but beginning a major in sustainability studies.

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Castleton State College, Castleton

2200 students, 210 faculty, 183 staff • 160 acres

Respondent: Dr. Paul Derby, Green Campus Initiative coordinator

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes. Written in spring 2008.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Yes. Dr. Paul Derby, Green Campus Initiative coordinator. Also, a Sustainability Work Group.

Green purchasing policy

Yes. College president led effort for entire Vermont State College system.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No, but have done two greenhouse gas emissions inventories — in 2006 and 2007 — to measure carbon footprint. Signed the President’s Climate Commitment, 2008. Written policy and plans to reduce carbon emissions by 2009.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

No.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Working with food service provider, Aramark, on green projects including local purchasing, tray-less dining, composting food waste. Vegetables harvested from campus garden and used in dining room.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No. But Campus Center will be renovated and expanded this year as LEED Silver certified.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. Since 2006, new vehicle purchases are hybrids. Exploring mass transit possibilities and carpooling program.

Socially responsible investment policy

No.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes.

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Champlain College, Burlington

2000 students, 13 part-time faculty, 224 adjuncts, 292 full-time faculty and staff • 21.8 acres

Respondent: Stephen Mease

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

No. Expect to write it this year. Have completed carbon-profile assessment. Sustain Champlain, a cross-campus initiative of faculty, staff and students, has developed a mission statement and written goals.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Gabe Calvi, sustainability coordinator.

Green purchasing policy

No.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

Yes. Hired Burlington-based Spring Hill Solutions to measure emissions. Now developing carbon-reduction strategy.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. Small co-generation facility in Carriage House. Exploring other alternate-energy options. Facilities have had an energy-conservation program primarily focused on building envelope (insulation, window replacements) and sophisticated energy-control strategies.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Dining service, Sodexo, is member of Vermont Fresh Network; purchase produce from Black River Produce and partner with Pioneer Valley organic farms of Massachusetts.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes to campus-wide recycling program. The grounds crew composts landscaping waste. Instituted tray-less dining hall and “Tap Into Champlain” to reduce use and purchase of bottled water.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

Yes. Aiken Hall, currently undergoing renovation, will be LEED-rated. Perry Hall and the Residential Quadrangle are projected to get LEED or other “green” certifications.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. Actively participate in CATMA. Agreed to participate in the Green Mountain Car Share program, making two vehicles available to students and faculty this fall. Conduct “Car Free Days” each semester to encourage carpooling, mass transit and alternative transportation.

Socially responsible investment policy

No.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes. School markets itself as “environmentally responsible” and “green.”

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Community College of Vermont

(13 locations statewide)

Approximately 10,000 students, 165 staff members,

700 faculty members.

Respondent: Barbara Martin, dean of administration

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

No. Lease or rent most facilities and have limited control in many areas of sustainability. But approximately one-third of classes taught “online” via distance education, enabling students to learn and faculty to teach, without traveling. Academic sites purposely distributed statewide to give students access to a site close to home/work.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

No.

Green purchasing policy

No. No centralized purchasing function. “In the past year, our College Council has made it a priority to educate the college and champion paper reduction. While working hard to reduce our paper use, we do use recycled paper.”

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. In building our Upper Valley facility in Wilder, benefited from Vermont Energy’s guidance in building, installing, and using energy-efficient mechanisms. In St. Albans, Efficiency Vermont included CCV facility in an area-wide energy-reduction plan, including new lighting to replace our older, less efficient ones.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

N/A.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Each location has recycling bins. Level of participation varies by community.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

65,000-square-foot facility in downtown Winooski, now under construction, is being planned toward LEED Silver certification.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. Whenever possible, sites are located in a city or town’s “downtown.” Done for convenience to students, to enable use of public and shared transportation and share community resources.

Socially responsible investment policy

N/A.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

No.

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Goddard College, Plainfield

750 students, 100 faculty, 60 staff • 175 acres

Respondent: Judy Fitch, dean of planning and assessment

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

No. In process of creating campus master plan with “very strong sustainability component.” President has signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Yes, Judy Fitch.

Green purchasing policy

Yes.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

In the works. Did inventory as part of Presidents’ Climate Commitment and analyzed emissions. “We know where the points are that we need to improve and we’re in the process of developing that plan.” Received $23,000 grant from Vermont Department of Public Service’s clean energy fund. Feasibility study in works for a woodchip plant to co-generate electricity. Working with Biomass Energy Resource Center.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. Portion of electricity through Green Mountain Power is from renewable sources, and “we’re hoping to increase that.” No renewable energy generated on campus.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Purchase a percentage from local farms.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No. But new construction will have a LEED Silver rating, pursuant to Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. One electric car used to deliver mail. Campus plan includes a new pedway.

Socially responsible investment policy

Yes.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes. Have a Master’s program in socially responsible business and sustainable communities. “Many students come here with sustainability and a green environment as their key concern.” Part of mission is “to have concern for others and the welfare of the Earth.”

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Green Mountain College, Poultney

770 undergraduates, 85 off-campus grad students, 160 full-time staff, 50 full-time faculty • 155 acres

Respondent: Jesse Pyles, service-learning & sustainability coordinator

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes. Focused on environmental sustainability, reinforced and integrated throughout environmental liberal arts curriculum. Environmental sustainability features prominently as one of six main initiatives in recently adopted five-year strategic plan.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Yes.

Green purchasing policy

Yes. Adopted Energy Star-approved appliance-purchasing policy. Office paper includes some level of recycled content; purchase sustainably harvested bathroom paper products. Event dining ware is biodegradable.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No. But as charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), GMC is developing plan to become net carbon neutral. Recently completed greenhouse gas inventory to determine emissions sources, and will use the inventory to determine Climate Action Plan.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. In 2006, signed up to get more than 50 percent of electricity from Vermont dairy farms through CVPS’ Cow Power Program, which burns methane from cow manure for power. Fifty percent of main campus and 100 percent of off-campus electricity purchases support program. Off-grid installation that powers farm greenhouse with photovoltaic cells and small-scale wind turbine. Systematically replaced residence-hall windows and campus steam pipes to increase efficiency in campus heating system. Retrofitted to energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout campus. 1998 recognition as EPA’s first Energy Star Showcase Campus.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Extensive Farm and Food Program, working farm on campus that provides organic food to one campus dining hall and local community. The farm is an integral part of many academic programs, and student involvement on the farm outside of class is impressive. In fall 2006, a food-focused course determined that dining services spent 13 percent of its annual food budget on locally sourced food items. Committed to increasing that by 5 percent annually (about $24,000) over the following three years.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Student-staffed recycling program pre-dates 1996 environmental mission focus and is well supported by housekeeping and grounds crews. Dining service is tray-less; compostable dishware for all outdoor campus events. Rewards use of reusable mugs, and independently operates food-waste-reduction education campaign. Campus grounds crew composts landscaping waste for perennial beds. Kitchen and dining hall waste composted on campus farm as pig food and use in vegetable beds.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No LEED-certified buildings on campus, but renovations to existing properties and design for future residence hall are planned to meet LEED and green-building specifications.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Partnering with CVPS to test one of two state-of-the-art plug-in hybrid vehicles. Collecting data and studying performance in a variety of road conditions. Rural campus location limits mass-transit opportunities, but bicycle use is encouraged, including a recent 16-mile cycling trip led by President Paul Fonteyn.

Socially responsible investment policy

No.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes, extensively.

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Lyndon State College, Lyndonville

Approximately 1400 students, 180 full-time employees, 105 part-time employees. • 185 acres •

Respondent: Wayne Hamilton, dean of administration

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

No formal plan. Have made environmental sustainability a priority for capital expenditures and included sustainability as part of strategic plan.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Leadership for sustainability issues on campus rests with “Advisory Committee on Sustainability,” chaired by the dean of administration and composed of faculty, students and staff.

Green purchasing policy

Yes. Custodial department reviewed all cleaning products and has substituted environmentally safer products wherever possible. Have attempted to increase portion of recycled paper purchased by college annually.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No. Several initiatives under consideration to reduce net carbon emissions.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Purchase electricity from a small municipal utility, thus options are limited. No electricity generated on campus. Recently completed feasibility study to construct biomass-fueled central heating plant to replace current oil-fired systems for heat and electricity. In winter 2007-08 the maintenance department building was converted from oil-fired heating system to wood-gasification boiler, eliminating need for approximately 5000 gallons of #2 fuel oil annually. In the next month will complete the conversion in one of main parking lots from standard metal halide lights to LED fixtures, expected to reduce electricity consumption by 50 percent (first application of LED lighting in a parking lot in the state). Replacement of interior lighting fixtures, use of CFLs has reduced electrical use by approximately 4 percent over the first seven months of 2008.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Food-service contractor has a program to purchase food products from sources within 100 miles.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes. Campus-wide recycling program for paper, plastics, aluminum and glass. Containers for recycling in all buildings on campus. Tray-less food service in dining hall. Snack bar introducing dishware and utensils made of a corn-based product. Agreement with local farmer to compost food and paper waste from dining hall. Provide waste cooking oil to fuel his tractor.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

A new academic building, under construction, will seek LEED Silver certification.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. Three electric vehicles for campus and local use by college employees. Developing carpooling system for students and employees. Bus transportation to the campus is available through regional rural transportation agency; makes several stops on campus daily.

Socially responsible investment policy

N/A. Endowment investments governed by the Vermont State College policies and procedures.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes.

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New England Culinary Institute (NECI), Montpelier

685 student, 520 faculty and staff • 40 acres

Respondent: Richard Flies, senior vice pr esident for education

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes, incorporated into NECI mission and philosophy.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Executive chefs committee responsible for sustainability in restaurants and purchasing. In academic department, NECI has a minor in sustainability in its BA program.

Green purchasing policy

Yes. Has contract with local farmers and CSAs for year-round produce and proteins on each campus. Have major contractor, Burlington Food Service, identify green products in sanitation and cleaning supplies.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

Yes. A “travel reduction” plan, which includes live television feed cross-campus for meetings, carpooling and public transportation.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. Installing solar on the roofs of the restaurants in Montpelier to heat hot water for dishwashers.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Each campus has a garden and herbs, plus contracts with farmers and local CSAs. NECI is a founding member of the Farm Fresh Network, with executive chef on its board.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes. Food waste is 100 percent composted. Use green sanitation products.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

No.

Socially responsible investment policy

N/A.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes on sustainable and local.

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Norwich University, Northfield

Approximately 1950 undergraduate students, 1300 grad students, 112 full-time faculty • 1200 acres

Respondent: David Santos, media relations manager

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes. Master Plan has green elements, including pursuing LEED certification for $26.2 million civilian student dorm building project, scheduled for completion in fall 2009.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Yes.

Green purchasing policy

No.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

No.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

No.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes. State-of-the-art pulper in the Wise Campus Center replaced garbage disposals in kitchen. Device uses less water and produces compost-ready material.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

Yes. Wise Campus Center. Also pursuing LEED Gold certification for new civilian student dorm project.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

No. Mass transit unavailable in Northfield. Carpooling and bike riding are popular means of campus transport. No formal plan.

Socially responsible investment policy

No.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

No.

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Sterling College, Craftsbury Common

100 students, 33 faculty and staff • 150 acres (main campus)

Respondents: Will Wootton, president; Ethan Darling, director of website and publications; Kate Camara, director of media relations

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Yes.

Green purchasing policy

Yes. Green purchasing across the board, from cleaning materials to publications, campus-grown food to milled lumber extracted (with draft animals) from campus woodlot, to horse-drawn farm equipment.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

Yes. Green Bike Program seeds campus with public-access bikes, providing community with carbon-zero campus transportation. Mixed-power farm offsets carbon emissions through use of draft animals for farming, timber harvesting and load hauling. Electric car for local errands and campus tours.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. Over next three years, plan calls for investing $110,000/year in on-campus conservation measures, including installation of electric generating wood-fired gasification plant, solar panels, increased insulation and energy efficiency of dorms. All utilities campus-wide are monitored and recorded by student body. Results are analyzed in continuous effort to improve resources and reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Students make evening rounds of campus buildings to ensure unused lights are turned off, windows and doors are closed, wood-pellet stove is set to low, and faucets are working properly. Livestock barn operates on solar and wind power.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. Only college in Vermont that obtains nearly 100 percent of food from local sources; 25 percent of all food served is grown or raised on campus; 65 percent from independent growers within 25 miles of campus; remaining 10 percent purchased from Burlington food-service providers, 150 miles away. Food is organic whenever possible and chosen for environmental practices. Have approximately four acres of organic farms, an heirloom/grafted perma-cultured managed orchard and additional livestock, all generating food served on campus.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes. Campus-wide recycling program since 1985. Dishware is collection of mismatched mugs and plates, bowls, etc. No deep fryer, no trays, no soda machines or soda, no bottled water or refined sugar. Root cellars instead of walk-in coolers. 100 percent of food scraps are composted, processed material distributed on our gardens via draft horses.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. Electric car as well as Green Bicycle Program. College employee policy encourages faculty and staff to adopt schedules that accommodate carpools and group transportation. Campus vehicle policies enforce minimum-passenger occupancy. Three draft horses and two draft oxen used for teaching and work on campus. Work with local entrepreneurs to produce working supply of biodiesel for operation of farm machinery.

Socially responsible investment policy

No. Board of Trustees is looking into using a percentage of endowment into SR investing. Questions the practice of purchasing carbon offsets.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes. College has been living and thinking green since late 1970s. Market ourselves as environmental college that concentrates in experiential and traditional liberal arts education.

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St. Michael’s College, Colchester

2000 undergraduates, 500 grad students, 150 faculty members • 440 acres

Respondent: Heather Ellis, sustainability coordinator

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

No.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

Yes. Hired first sustainability coordinator, Heather Ellis, on July 7.

Green purchasing policy

No. However, majority of cleaning products are biodegradable, non-toxic and phosphate-free. No chlorine bleach, ammonia or petroleum byproducts. Print shop purchases recycled paper. Many campus offices buy recycled paper.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No. But three students conducted greenhouse-gas inventory for 2006-07; another for 2000-08 due to be completed by early 2009 to prepare for carbon emissions Reduction Plan/Sustainability Action Plan.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. Energy conservation program. Student environmental club, “Green Up SMC,” doing second CFL bulb swap. Worked with Efficiency Vermont on survey of all light fixtures; replaced outdated and inefficient ones. Physical Plant initiated a “challenge” in which thermostats are set 3 degrees higher in the summer and 3 degrees lower in winter. Will have Energy/Water Reduction Competition between first-year residence halls to raise awareness about energy/water usage and ways to reduce it. No renewable energy generated on campus.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Purchase an estimated 30 percent from local farmers and producers (in addition to organic and fair-trade products). Just started first community organic garden this summer, with part of harvest incorporated into the main dining hall.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Campus-wide recycling program. No eco-friendly dishware, but gave free reusable mugs to 553 first-year students (with a CCTA bus guide and a Go Green Sustainable Living Guide to SMC). Collect pre- and post- consumer food waste from main dining hall and yard waste, which is brought to its own compost site on campus. Offer small buckets with biodegradable bags to students, staff and faculty to compost in their rooms/offices and drop off food waste.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

No, but new Alumni Relations building (beginning construction this fall) aims to achieve LEED certification.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes, just purchased a 2008 Honda Civic hybrid this summer. Campus bus shuttle runs on biodiesel. Bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs in the works. Green Up SMC is working on pilot bike-sharing program this fall; will construct connector road between north and main campus with bike lane. All students, staff and faculty can ride the CCTA for free; also have bus shuttle between main and north campus.

Socially responsible investment policy

Yes.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

No.

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Vermont Law School, South Royalton

650 students, 142 faculty and staff • 13 acres

Respondent: Diane Derby, director of media relations

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes. Have a “green computing” policy and incorporate sustainability as master-plan goal.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

No. CFO works directly with the buildings and grounds supervisor on these issues. Has “Greening Committee” on campus composed of students, faculty and staff to guide policy.

Green purchasing policy

Yes.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

Yes. Performed analysis to see which areas need to be addressed first.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Trying to first lessen demand, i.e., two LEED-certified buildings. No power generated on campus, but looking into various generating options.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

Yes. In summer, about 80 percent of produce served is local; 90 to 100 percent of meat supplied from local farms and businesses.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes. Has biodegradable plates; composts food waste; composting toilets.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

Yes. First LEED building completed in 1997 (Oakes Hall). In 2004, completed renovations for Debevoise Hall to be certified LEED Silver.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

N/A. No fleet vehicles. People bike and carpool. No mass transit available.

Socially responsible investment policy

No.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

No. But US News & World Report ranks VLS as one of the nation’s top-ranked programs for environmental law.

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Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center

1561 students, 75 full-time faculty, 200 staff • 544 acres at main campus

Respondents: Michael Van Dyke, dean of college; Ted Manazir, facilities director; Dana Storer, admissions

Written policy on environmental sustainability and/or a “green” campus master plan

Yes. Developed two years ago; also a sustainability mission statement and master plan that includes green elements.

Staff person/ office for sustainability issues

No. Have had sustainable-design major for two years (four-year program incorporating architecture, planning, engineering). Have sustainability committee.

Green purchasing policy

Yes. About 90 percent of products have green label. Low- or no-VOC paints in campus center.

Carbon-emissions reduction plan

No. Participated in Northeast Collegiate Challenge to reduce fuel and electricity consumption.

Energy conservation program and/or purchases renewable energy

Renewable energy generated on campus

Yes. Calculated fuel usage and total energy consumption, metered dorms to study rates of usage. Reducing consumption and bringing in energy-efficient lights. Working with Efficiency Vermont to reduce usage. Waterless urinals in campus center. No alternative energy generated on campus. Seeking funding for manure digester; 400 animals on campus, which could “almost eliminate” need for 220,000 gallons/year of #4 heating oil.

Local and/or organic food purchasing, farm-to-school program or campus-grown food

No. All milk produced on campus is shipped off-site. Don’t run own food service. Have farmers’ market Wednesday nights; staff vegetable patch.

Campus-wide recycling program, eco-friendly dishware, food and/or landscape composting

Yes. Recycle paper; use recycled paper; shred waste paper for use as animal bedding. Have e-waste reduction program. Tray-less dining room has “significantly” reduced food waste. Recycle veggie oil. Use unbleached napkins, reusable-cloth cleanup rags.

“Green” (LEED-certified) buildings on campus and/or plans to build one

Yes. New building recently LEED certified. Looking to renovate historical building to LEED standards.

Alternative energy fleet vehicles, bicycle/pedestrian/carpooling programs, mass transit available on/near campus

Yes. Use four Chrysler Gem electric vehicles in spring, summer and fall.

Socially responsible investment policy

N/A.

Engages in “green” marketing to prospective students

Yes. New program in sustainable design and technology, including architecture, landscape and mechanical engineering. “We see the future of the college as growth in that area.” Making efforts toward green campus.

A Second Opinion on Biomass

Dartmouth College scored a coup in June of 2005 when it selected James Merkel as its first sustainability director. For the next two years, the duration of Merkel's time on the job, the school earned an A-minus - the highest grade given - on the College Sustainability Report Card, issued by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

As it happens, Merkel, 50, is a ringer in the sustainability game. In 2003, he wrote Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth, a unique combination of an environmental ethics treatise and a how-to guide for calculating one's own ecological footprint - the land and resource burden a lifestyle makes on the Earth. Before that, he founded the Global Living Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainability outreach and education. Few candidates were as uniquely equipped as Merkel to take a holistic approach at putting the 7000-person community at Dartmouth more in harmony with the environment.

He advocates the same approach today, as more and more colleges are seeking the green-tinted grail of sustainability and building biomass co-generators. Such a perspective, he says, would correct a common misconception that heating and generating with biomass - namely, wood chips - are carbon-neutral activities.

"It's anything but green," Merkel contends, because burning wood chips releases more carbon dioxide per BTU than does coal, and because logging often destroys natural habitats and contributes to today's species extinction rate, which is occurring 1000 times faster than the natural rate. Biomass believers assert that the carbon dioxide emitted during combustion is offset by the planting of replacement trees. Merkel's response is that replanting creates a monoculture, and that it takes 40 years to reap any benefit, assuming the land is not bulldozed and developed.

But if biomass, the darling of heavily forested northern New England, is not the answer, where can colleges turn for clean energy? We know wind and solar are the cleanest sources, but they're also unreliable by themselves.

Not so fast, Merkel cautions. "Thoreau said, 'Simplify three times,' you know?" he begins. "But that was 1853, so I think we need to say, 'Simplify 30 times' now, before you talk about what kind of energy you use."

In other words, schools should take a sharp look at every angle of campus operations - building occupancy and longevity, thermostat controls, insulation, efficiency technologies, etc. - to whittle down the amount of energy a school needs, and then fill that need with renewables.

"That, to me," Merkel says, "is the silver bullet."

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Bio:
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.

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