Highlights from Middlebury's sustainability initiatives

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Highlights from Middlebury's sustainability initiatives

July 1, 2010

By Clare Crosby, Sustainability Communication and Outreach Coordinator


This year a wide variety of groups across campus were actively involved in the pursuit of sustainability. The efforts of the Environmental Council, the Sunday Night Group, SGA Environmental Affairs Committee, the Carbon Neutrality Implementation Teams, the Sustainability Integration Office, and others helped Middlebury maintain and build upon our reputation as a sustainability leader in higher education.

Students in the Socially Responsible Investment Club urged the Board of Trustees to create a new sustainable investment fund for a portion of Middlebury’s endowment, and students from the SGA turned Earth Day into Earth Week with activities such as projecting Planet Earth onto a large wall in Ross Dining Hall during dinner throughout the week.

The Environmental Council (EC) distributed nearly $25,000 in grants this year to fund sustainability related projects on campus such as research on microalgae for heating, a garden maintained by Public Safety, and an ecological evaluation of College lands. The EC also hosted the first Sustainability Summit last fall and another in the spring. The summits brought together over 60 students, faculty, and staff from across the College to discuss Middlebury’s sustainability initiatives. The EC hopes to continue these events next year, as they provided a valuable opportunity for everyone to share and collaborate.

Middlebury continues to move toward our goal of carbon neutrality by 2016. Our carbon footprint for the 2009 fiscal year decreased by 10 percent compared to the 2008 fiscal year thanks to the opening of the biomass gasification plant in February 2009 (2,800 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents), decreased employee travel, and a decrease in trash being landfilled. Further reductions will be seen in the 2010 fiscal year as the biomass plant will be in operation for the full year as compared to only six months in 2009.

In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2016, we continue to pursue various options for reducing Middlebury’s carbon footprint. One recent development is the possibility of biomethane for heating. The College recently signed a letter of intent with a local biomethane start-up, which could significantly reduce the use of fuel oil on campus if the project moves forward.

Middlebury is also finding ways to reduce energy use on campus. During the past year, collaboration with Efficiency Vermont provided opportunity for efficiency upgrades to current renovation projects including improved insulation around campus, Energy Star equipment for Proctor Dining Hall, high-efficiency lighting, and a heat recovery system in the biomass plant. These projects cost $159,320 and are expected to save 257,800 kWh or $104,410 annually in electricity and heating costs.