In May, my TriplePundit colleague Tina Casey wrote a good piece on Green Mountain College’s success in achieving carbon neutrality. I enjoyed Tina’s work a great deal, but wanted to expand a bit on the story. Forgive a soon-to-be alum for bragging and please allow me to indulge in the celebration of my alma mater’s imitable efforts.
Yes, as Tina pointed out, GMC achieved carbon neutrality through a combination of biomass, cow power and offsets. It should be noted that GMC is only the second school in the nation to achieve this goal and was therefore rightly awarded the Second Nature Climate Leadership Award June 23rd at the fifth annual Climate Leadership Summit of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in Washington, D.C. In 2006, GMC became the first college in Vermont to sign the ACUPCC, embracing the challenge to accelerate the College’s progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability.
Still, carbon neutrality is only a small fraction of the school’s sustainability efforts. The college adopted an environmental liberal arts mission in 1995, and created a 37-credit general education curriculum that focuses on teaching all students how to take responsibility for the health of their natural and social environments. It became one of the first in that nation to offer a fully accredited MBA focused on sustainability and a triple-bottom-line approach to business. The school offers one of the few distance learning M.S. in Environmental Studies programs in the nation and recently introduced the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems, building on the undergraduate program in sustainable agriculture already available.
Because of this academic programming and soup-to-nuts commitment to environmental stewardship, The Princeton Review rated Green Mountain College among the most environmentally responsible schools in the country in the 2011 edition of Guide to 311 Green Colleges. This follows its award as the “greenest school” in the nation per the Sierra Club in 2010.
But, what is the real value in these enhancements, the real merit in these awards and sustainable actions? As I pointed out in a post last year, through sustainable actions, schools can help fulfill their purpose of societal betterment and instigate systemic change. By greening their campuses and offering ecologically sensitive courses, universities like GMC are shaping tomorrow’s societies and encouraging broader respect for the natural world. By advancing conservation practices, colleges promote widespread change. Like I said last year, sustainability starts in the schools.