A most profound challenge.
An educational priority of the highest order.
Middlebury leading on the crisis facing the planet.

Energy2028 will fulfill Middlebury's mission at its deepest level: students learning how to engage their communities, think consequentially, and act creatively at this crucial time for our environment. 

Commitment to Using 100 Percent Renewable Energy

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Commitment to Campus Energy Conservation

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Commitment to Reducing Fossil Fuel Investments

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Commitment to Educational Opportunities

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Energy2028: 24/7

School of the Environment: Global Engagement

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Néle Azevedo: Ice Figurines

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Bread Loaf: Land and Learning

Marc Lapin:                  I'm often saying to my students, everything happens someplace on earth so we can't just teach you this theory. We need to think about how it gets applied somewhere.

Marc Lapin:                  My favorite part about Bread Loaf Land is the forests and to me a forest is not just the trees, it's the shape of the land, the wetness, the brooks running through it, especially in the winter when you can see through the trees, you can look out and see the other lands, think about decisions that Joseph Battell made and that the college made and it's now national forest land.

Marc Lapin:                  You're feeling the history of the place and you really get to see how in different places impact the way things are done and the way choices are made. Most people don't really understand all that's entailed in making decisions, doing management, all the different ways to think about what could happen and how one manages land. Understanding the different values, the different people, different organizations brings to the team, building more and more relationship between people and land.

Marc Lapin:                  This is again a way to take it to a place on earth and meld the science with the values. Looking at the forest, thinking about who had been there, what decisions they made, what's left to us to decide and how we do it, and then that brings an affection too. Oh, these are our lands, these are our forests.

Marc Lapin:                  Being able to feel the history through the forest and the streams and think about our responsibility to the future.

Morgan Perlman:         Just the fact that it's conserved forever, that has so many unique features that he can take us to an Old Growth Hemlock forest or that we can go down Wagon Wheel Road and see Middle Branch or the Middlebury River. To think about water and how much water is there and where it all comes from when you see it down here in Otter Creek, it sort of goes beyond the academics of just studying conservation and actually experiencing what conservation is like in practice.

Marc Lapin:                  This is an educational place. This is a nature place. This is a place where recreation is in concert with these other things. It's intentionally so and not too many places on earth are intentionally about human's relationship with natural areas.

 

Energy Tracker: One Student's Day

This is Gabe. Gabe is getting ready for a day of class. Just like all of his peers, Gabe uses quite a bit of energy every day.

It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz, and this is Greta Thunberg.

I was 16 years old. I come from Sweden, and I want you to panic.

And Greta wants us to panic because our time on this planet is running out.

Gabe wants you to be aware of how much you use and where it comes from. Gabe loves our planet and cares about energy consumption because of its impact on the climate crisis. He is surprised at how much energy all of Middlebury College uses. So, Gabe wants you to listen up.

You're listening to Mid Moment. I'm Laurie Patton.

Be aware.

By 2028, we aim to have our core campus powered 100% by renewable energy, reduce our energy consumption by 25%, and have a robust faculty-initiated experiential curriculum in place focusing on energy use.

And make a commitment to Energy 2028.

Global Partnerships: For Sustainability

Mahli Knutson:             It's a tall order to presume to contribute to the sustainability of the country where a Middlebury student studies abroad, but that's exactly what the Global Partnerships for Sustainability, or GPS, is all about.

Mahli Knutson:             It provides an opportunity for students to contribute, even if in a small way, to advancing sustainability in the place where they study. Students work with in-country partners to help them achieve their sustainability goals. A few examples include, helping the Nature Conservancy of China shift a local economy in China from intensive bamboo farming to designing and marketing bamboo arts and crafts, to protect a drinking water supply. Or, working with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Chile, to help develop plans for a new national park in Tierra del Fuego.

Mahli Knutson:             In my own case, Middlebury students traveled from Tokyo to Tottori, to participate in a lumbering project, with the goal of bringing jobs back to the local economy. Not only did my class make a small contribution to Tottori's sustainability vision, my GPS experience gave me a depth of cultural understanding and language skills that would have been difficult to otherwise obtain. I also learned a little bit more about myself and my potential to advance greater things for a more sustainable future.

 

Carbon Neutrality: The Path Forward

Jack Byrne:                   The goal to become carbon neutral started in 2007. It followed on the heels of an earlier goal that was set in 2004. When it looked like that goal was going to be achieved because the trustees approved funding for the biomass plant, students went to, Ron Liebowitz, the President of the college at the time.

Jack Byrne:                   Said, "We should have a new goal. Our new goal, we should be carbon neutral by 2016." Ron was impressed enough with the students' arguments that he said, "I'll give you 20 minutes at the next trustees meeting, you better be prepared."

Churchill F.:                  He guided them a bit about things to be ready for. He said, "I said to the students, there's one board member who will ask you the first question. The first question will be, "What if we don't get there and how will we deal with that?"

Churchill F.:                  The students made their presentation, and the board member put his or her hand up and said, "So what happens if we don't make it?" The student having had a little bit of guidance, a little bit of anticipation, Ron mentioned he was really proud of this, said, "We actually haven't figured that out yet."

May Boeve:                  I completely remember feeling really intimidated and unprepared and, "What do we say? What do we do?" Getting questions that I didn't know the answer to, and just needing to really be grounded in, "This is the right thing. At the end of the day, this is the right thing to do."

May Boeve:                  The mechanics of how it gets done and the timeline, and all these variables that have to be negotiated by people who know the technical details, leave that piece to them.

May Boeve:                  Our role as students was making a moral demand that, "Here is Middlebury, this strong leader in sustainability. Here is a very obvious and concrete step the college can take." We wanted the college to do it. I think for student organizers, that is your power.

Jack Byrne:                   The trustees essentially said, "We're interested, but come back to us in February and show us how we're going to do it."

Churchill F.:                  There was a deep belief that figuring out a way to get to carbon neutrality, was exactly how we wanted to be positioned. The idea that we didn't quite know how we're going to get there was obviously the hurdle.

Jack Byrne:                   At that point, they formed a subcommittee of these students and some people from the board and the college, who worked on that question and essentially came back and said, "Look, if we don't do anything more than bio-mass, we could get to carbon neutrality by buying somebody else's offsets.

Jack Byrne:                   We don't want to do that, but if we did, here's the risk." It was about $200,000 a year. Trustees said, "Well, we could be comfortable with taking that risk," and that's when they adopted the goal to become carbon neutral by 2016.

Nan Jenks-Jay:              Were an early innovator, the learning curve was steep. We decided that this at the beginning would be an inclusive and participatory process, that always makes a process longer and more complex. It also improves it significantly.

Jack Byrne:                   Ultimately, we got to carbon neutrality through two major steps. One was, we switched our fuels primarily to wood chips and biomass, to heat and power the campus. Now the second thing we did is, we permanently conserved 2,100 acres of forest land.

Nan Jenks-Jay:              By preserving the Bread Loaf lands last year, we'll be credited towards our carbon reduction, instead of buying carbon credit somewhere else.

Jack Byrne:                   Along the way, there were dozens of things that we looked at and tried. We had to really spend a lot of time figuring out how to make the biomass plant work well. Today, it works really well. It works better than the manufacturer's specifications for it.

Mike Moser:                 The biomass plant came online in late 2008. The intent, the original design intent of the biomass plant was to displace half of that number six oil, 1 million gallons a year, with 20,000 tons of locally-sourced renewable wood chips.

Mike Moser:                 The actual operation of the plant had a bumpy first year. There were a lot of technical obstacles we worked through, but by about 2010, we'd shattered those barriers. The plant was up and running. We'd reached our goal of 20,000 tons a year.

Mike Moser:                 As I reflect back now through those times, I mean last year, nearly 24,000 tons of wood chips, only 600,000 gallons of number six oil received. It's really moved forward.

Jack Byrne:                   Here we are today, we're carbon neutral by virtue of having switched our fuel to biomass, done efficiency projects, invested in renewables. We've conserved 2,100 acres of land to do that. I think in the process, we've created our own internal form of offsets.

Jack Byrne:                   We've done this by taking advantage of the assets and the resources we have within the college to do it. I think we can be really proud of the way we've gotten there.

Nan Jenks-Jay:              When you look at the past decade that we've been talking about this, you really see that although individuals have changed and students have come and gone, the commitment and the methodology to embed this decision-making process and higher learning, and in problem solving is... that's the golden nugget.

Churchill F.:                  An awful lot of carbon neutrality is definitional. By some definitions, there's plenty of work still to do.

Mike Moser:                 What else is out there? What else can do to continuously push the envelope? I think our success is due to, we don't stop. We, students, staff, faculty, the facilities, the operations of the plant, always looking to push the envelope.

May Boeve:                  For us, it gave us this experience of leadership, and of asking for something of the president and getting at the answer that we wanted. Which when you're getting involved in activism, that's kind of the best thing you can hope for.

May Boeve:                  Is that through your work, the decision maker says, "Yes," to what you were asking. I think that helped make a whole generation of Middlebury students, really active leaders in the climate movement.

Jack Byrne:                   We created a pathway that other institutions can learn from. I think it demonstrates that an institution can really do something on its own, to contribute to solutions to this problem.

Laurie Patton:              As I've experienced this community, we can do almost anything creatively if we put our mind to it, particularly when it comes to environmental goals and environmental ethics.

Laurie Patton:              I'm delighted that we are as an institution, now thinking about next steps beyond carbon neutrality. I want everyone to stay tuned as to what we do for the future.

Nan Jenks-Jay:              I really believe that carbon neutrality is a continuum that we're on, and it's just part of something more that we're going to be doing. It is a place that became catalytic, and brought this community together at its very best.

Nan Jenks-Jay:              While this seems like a milestone and an end point, it's not at all. We're probably in the infancy of what Middlebury is going to be doing, and that's even more exciting.

Nan Jenks-Jay:              (singing)

 

Progress

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News and Updates

Energy2028's Four Commitments

The sun shining through leaves in autum

Commitment to Using 100 Percent Renewable Energy

  • Middlebury will transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources, not derived from fossil fuels, for electric and thermal power for its core Vermont campus by the end of 2028.
  • Middlebury will shift to using renewable natural gas and eliminate the use of natural gas, a fossil fuel, as a supplemental energy source for its on-campus biomass-gasification plant. That plant already meets most of the campus’s heating and cooling needs and cogenerates 15–20 percent of Middlebury’s electricity needs.
  • Middlebury intends to reach 100 percent renewable electricity usage by increasing its investment in solar and, possibly, hydro power. Middlebury will seek, wherever possible, to make those investments in Vermont.
The atrium of Bi-Hall from above

Commitment to Campus Energy Conservation

  • Middlebury intends to reduce energy consumption on its core campus by 25 percent by 2028.
  • The reduction will come from changes to campus infrastructure, including renovating and updating several large academic buildings, as well as behavioral changes. The plan also calls for improved energy-use monitoring across campus.
  • The institution is considering the introduction of an internal carbon price on certain activities with a high carbon impact. The carbon price would fund conservation projects and encourage more thoughtful consumption behavior.
Middlebury Biomass Gasification plant

Commitment to Reducing Fossil Fuel Investments

  • Beginning in mid-2019, Middlebury’s investment manager, Investure, will not directly invest any new dollars on Middlebury’s behalf in specialized private investment funds that focus on fossil fuels.
  • Middlebury, in collaboration with Investure, will begin a phaseout of direct fossil fuel investments in the endowment that will reduce the value of those investments by 25 percent in 5 years and 50 percent in 8 years and, within 15 years, eliminate such investments entirely. 
  • Middlebury and Investure have established realistic and reasonable reduction targets to ensure the phaseout does not significantly impact the performance of the endowment.
Two students conducting field work in the forest

Commitment to Educational Opportunities

  • Middlebury will engage faculty, staff, and students across all of its schools and programs in educational and research opportunities that will help influence the plan’s execution and its continued evolution.
  • Middlebury faculty will lead in making immersive, experiential education an essential part of Energy2028.
  • Opportunities will include experiences in the classroom, lab, and field and with community partners, providing students with opportunities to address today’s most challenging problems in meaningful ways, and to understand the tradeoffs inherent in energy decisions.
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"Middlebury has long championed sustainability. Our actions today signal even broader leadership at all levels of the institution"

- Middlebury Board Chair Kim Parizeau, 2019

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