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Since 2008 when Middlebury's biomass plant was built, use of fuel oil at Middlebury has dropped from about 2.1 million gallons a year to 600,000 gallons in 2015 and 185,000 gallons in 2016 (when natural gas became available in Middlebury).

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New Report Traces Middlebury's Challenging Path to Carbon Neutrality

May 31, 2017


MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – In December 2016, Middlebury achieved carbon neutrality. “How Did We Do It?” is the title of a
new account of how Middlebury reached this goal, set by the Board of Trustees in 2007.  The description of Middlebury’s journey includes some of the history behind the ambitious effort, challenges and successes encountered along the way, and a look to the future.

According to the report, all of Middlebury’s carbon neutrality accomplishments rest on four major initiatives:

• Conversion of its primary fuel source for heating, cooling, and powering the campus from #6 oil to biomass gasification;

• Partnership in three solar projects totaling 1.1 megawatts and retirement of the associated renewable energy credits;

• Efficiency and conservation projects which reduced demand for electricity by 4.5 million kWh, a 15-20 percent reduction in demand; and

• The conservation of 2,100 acres of forest land it owned through an easement given to the Vermont Land Trust with minimal forest harvest allowed under very strict conditions in perpetuity.

In a recent blog post on the website of Second Nature, a nonprofit organization that fosters climate action within higher education, Jack Byrne, director of sustainability integration, discussed the new account of Middlebury’s effort and offered a few takeaways about the institution’s nine-year journey to neutrality.

Looking to the future, Byrne writes, “While Middlebury has charted its own way to neutrality, it’s been done with a great deal of community engagement, support, constructive thinking and criticism. The College’s current status affords the opportunity to think about how it reached this point and to strategize about what our next big—and we hope bold—steps will be.”