Environmental Leadership

In 1965, Middlebury created the first environmental studies major in the nation. The College has since emerged as a leader in sustainability and environmental action.

At Middlebury, environmental mindfulness is central to our mission. Students, faculty, and staff strive to find workable solutions to pressing environmental concerns. And our students demonstrate their creativity and leadership by starting initiatives that become part of College policy.

As a direct outgrowth of student projects, Middlebury has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2016. President Ronald D. Liebowitz was named by Time Magazine one of the nation's top 10 college presidents for his vision and leadership in pushing the carbon-neutral initiative forward.


The campus is a laboratory for sustainable practices and for educating young people about how to address some of the most urgent problems of the 21st century. The student-run organic garden, our extensive recycling and composting programs, our new biomass plant, and our "green" buildings are just a few examples. Middlebury shares what it learns with other institutions and communities, and our students spread their knowledge and awareness everywhere they go.

A Climate Movement Begins at Middlebury

A history major from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jameson Henn '07 helped to found the Sunday Night Group,100-plus students dedicated to climate action. He and five young Middlebury alums joined author and Scholar in Residence Bill McKibben to create Step It Up, in which 2,000 groups nationwide held climate-related events, the largest U.S. environmental action since the first Earth Day in 1970.

Henn is now co-coordinator of 350.org, an international environmental movement founded by Middlebury alumni and McKibben to stem climate change by lowering CO2 emissions to a critical 350 parts per million. On October 24, 2009, 350.org organized more than 5,200 events in 181 countries—the most widespread day of environmental action ever.

Biomass Plant

In 2007 Middlebury set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2016. The completion of the biomass gasification facility in 2009 marks a significant milestone toward that goal. The culmination of eight years of creative collaboration among Middlebury students, faculty, staff, and trustees, the biomass plant has cut Middlebury’s carbon dioxide output by 40 percent, reduced our use of fuel oil by 50 percent, and is stimulating a local, renewable energy economy. The biomass plant shows what concerned people can ignite when they work together.

Other Examples of Environmental Leadership

Green campus: New campus buildings adhere to Middlebury's own green-design standards, incorporating energy saving features, recycled materials, local materials, and passive solar designs.

Green awards: The Franklin Environmental Center received a coveted platinum LEED award for it's environmental design.

Save and reuse: The College recycles nearly 40 percent of its total waste, and 70 percent of food waste is composted to use in campus landscaping.

Student-grown food: Since 2003, the College has bought produce from the student-run organic garden. This combination garden/teaching site closes the "food loop" by using composted dining hall waste to enrich the soil.

Student Research: The ES senior seminar invites students to collaborate with faculty and partners in the community or abroad on an environmental problem. Past topics have included: Mosquito Control in Vermont; An Integrated Approach to Support National Energy Policy in Ecuador; and An Assessment of Addison County Transit Resources' Current and Future Options.

What You Can Do

Your gift will support the programming and initiatives that have placed Middlebury at the center of environmental action—in its curriculum and groundbreaking environmental studies programs, research, and in its policies and practices designed to address some of today's most critical problems.

The Green Funds

In 2007, the College established the Green Funds, a family of endowed and expendable funds that gives alumni, parents, and friends an opportunity to join in Middlebury's sustainability efforts. From stewardship of College lands to experiential programs for students, the Green Funds keep Middlebury a leader in sustainability practice and education.