A young man riding his bike along the ocean near Monterey.

Sustainability has four dimensions: environmental, social, cultural, and economic. The actions we take are aimed at bringing those dimensions into balance.

Carbon Neutrality

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies aims to be a carbon-neutral campus. A formal policy outlining this commitment has been approved, and the steps to achieve our goal are underway.

The Carbon Neutrality Initiative consists of the following components:

Greenhouse Gas Audits  

For several years, students have collaborated with faculty experts to establish an energy usage and emissions baseline for the campus. Using guidelines published by the World Resources Institute and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), these audits provide the school with emissions inventories that are used to track the progress of our efforts over time. See our goals and results for the latest greenhouse gas audit information.

Energy and Lighting Overhaul Program  

We make every effort to reduce our energy consumption and minimize our greenhouse gas emissions. The Institute has partnered with the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) Energy Watch to complete a campuswide analysis and retrofit of our electrical and lighting systems. The retrofits included new higher-efficiency ballasts, CFL lights, motion sensors, and timers. This program is expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and take thousands of tons of carbon dioxide out of the air over the next 20 years. These funds can be used to offset our remaining emissions.

In July 2016, as part of our continual effort to improve our energy efficiency and reduce overall energy consumption, we replaced 90 percent of all interior lights with LED bulbs. LED (light-emitting diode) is one of today’s most energy-efficient and rapidly developing technologies. By switching to LED bulbs, in six months we kept 84.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere—this is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from over 200,000 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle or to almost four garbage trucks of waste recycled instead of landfilled.

Trash and Recycling  

The Institute has purchased new, standardized trash and recycling bins for the campus. Bins are located throughout campus and in every classroom, with signage explaining what can be recycled. A “Techno Trash” receptacle is also available in Media Services. You can use it to recycle CDs, DVDs, and cables, as well as other small electronics. According to California state law, these materials cannot be disposed of as general trash due to the hazardous materials (i.e., mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals) that they contain. We recycle hundreds of electronic products every semester.

Battery and CFL Recycling  

Brown containers in which you can deposit expired batteries are in several select locations across campus. Since 2008, we have collected over 2,000 pounds of batteries for recycling. Blue buckets for recycling Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are located in five areas across campus: the first floor of the William Tell Coleman Library, the Samson Reading Room, the GSIPM front desk, the McGowan lobby, and in Office Services.


Orange buckets that hold compostable waste are located in the Our Green Thumb garden. Their contents are transferred to an industrial strength composter, where these organic materials break down into elements that are mixed with dirt to create enriched soil for the garden. Bring your kitchen scraps to school to help grow the garden and cut down on landfill waste using our Composting Instructions.


The Institute minimizes landfill disposal of outdated but still usable items. Annual “freecycle” events are scheduled near the beginning of the academic year to offer such items for free to the MIIS community. Any unclaimed items are then offered to the Monterey community, and finally they are donated to the Last Chance Mercantile at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District.


California has been feeling the effects of severe and worsening water shortages for decades. Monterey County is a critically drought-sensitive area, and the Institute is committed to consuming water responsibly. We have already launched several programs to reduce our consumption and limit pollution levels in our runoff, and free home water efficiency devices—including shower timers, shower heads, leak detectors, and garden hose spray nozzles—are available at the reception desk in the Segal Building. The following retrofits have been installed across campus:

  • Low-flow and sensor flush toilets

  • Sensor-response faucets

  • A filtration system under the Samson Center that cleans the water before it is released into the bay

  • A rainwater catchment system on the Morse Building that enables the capture and use of rainwater in the Our Green Thumb garden

  • Water fountains that accommodate water bottles and dispense cold, filtered drinking water in the following campus locations: the Samson Student Center Dining Room, the McCone lobby, the McCone Lower Atrium, the Holland Center, and on each floor of McGowan.

Signed Agreements

President’s Climate Commitment

Former president Clara Yu signed the President’s Climate Commitment in May of 2007 on behalf of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. This commitment includes a statement of acknowledgment that climate change is real and that institutes of higher education have a responsibility to take the lead in finding solutions to these problems. The commitment lays out steps for signatories to work toward carbon neutrality with firm deadlines on accomplishing these goals.

Talloires Declaration

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies signed the Talloires Declaration in April of 2002. This is a declaration by university presidents all around the world expressing a commitment to creating a sustainable campus at their respective universities. The Talloires Declaration is a 10-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities. It has been signed by over 600 university presidents and chancellors in over 40 countries.

Sustainability Council Members                                                                                     

  • Barbara Burke, Executive Assistant the Vice President

  • Joelle Mellon, Research & Instruction Librarian

  • Andrew Hernandez, Director of Facilities 

  • Jeremy VondenBenken, Events Logistics Coordinator 

  • Julie Stasiuk, Sustainability Council Graduate Assistant

  • Olivia Cable-Barber, Garden Manager Graduate Assistant 

Sustainability Impact Lab (SIL) Fellows (Fall 2021) 


  • Annie Howley

  • Natasha-Lara Hood

  • Diane Sikkens


  • Alex Cleveland

  • Mary Pantenburg


  • Shivani Tambi

  • Cacie Russell


  • Tessa Varvares

  • Moira Pieri


  • Francis Cailles   

  • Emily Belding

Environmental Justice

  • Megan Spitzer


Please contact us with any questions or concerns, or for more information on sustainability issues at the Institute.