Environmental studies course launches award-winning service-learning project ‘72 Hours of Light’

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Middlebury College, in a collaborative service-learning project with Burlington-based energy consultant Efficiency Vermont, has been awarded a 2005 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence & Pollution Prevention. The annual award honors those who contribute to the protection of Vermont’s environment, the safety of its citizens, and the health of its economy. Vermont’s Gov. Jim Douglas will present the award in a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 8, in the House Chamber of the State House in Montpelier.

The award is the direct result of a fall 2004 conservation and environmental policy class taught at Middlebury College by Steven Maier, a visiting lecturer in the environmental studies program who is also a representative for the town of Middlebury in the Vermont State Legislature. Maier and Tiffany Nourse Sargent, director of the college’s Alliance for Civic Engagement, will attend the ceremony and accept the award on behalf of Middlebury College. A representative from Efficiency Vermont will attend as well.

The main objective of the project was to distribute energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to the residents of the town of Middlebury in hopes of reducing the community’s overall energy consumption. The project organizers wanted to raise awareness within the community about energy efficiency and its potential to mitigate global warming. Collaborating with Efficiency Vermont - a public utility designed to promote energy efficiency to Vermont electric customers - the class decided the project would span three days and, therefore, be called “72 Hours of Light.”

Over the course of the three days, the class distributed 7,000 CFLs and reached more than 800 homes in Middlebury and the surrounding area, helping residents save an estimated 1.4 million kilowatt hours of energy and $350,000 in electricity costs. Efficiency Vermont provided the CFLs - some donated and others at a reduced price - as well as support and guidance in
the planning of the event. Middlebury’s Aubuchon Hardware and Kinney Drugs were the local community business partners who distributed the CFLs to customers, with considerable help from the Middlebury Area Global Warming Coalition throughout the three days. “The project was a perfect example of a Middlebury College class coming together with the community to achieve significant environmental progress,” said Maier. “Everyone worked hard, learned a lot - and we all had a great time.”

In a statement delivered upon the announcement of the award, Douglas said, “I am pleased to inform you that a panel of judges has selected Efficiency Vermont’s collaborative project with Middlebury College - the Middlebury “72 Hours of Light” - for recognition with a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence & Pollution Prevention. Thank you for your efforts to protect and enhance the quality of Vermont’s environment. Your award-winning project stands out as a model that should inspire all Vermonters to find innovative approaches to conserve resources, safeguard human and environmental health, and prevent pollution before it is generated.”

Middlebury College was previously a recipient of the Governor’s award, in 2002, for the deconstruction and recycling of its former science center.