Wednesday, October 24, 2007

College Sustainability Report Card

If Middlebury College were a student, it would graduate at the top of its class. The College Sustainability Report Card was released today by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Middlebury earned ::drum roll:: an A-! ::crowd cheers:: (For the record, Williams received a B+. I heard that purple cows produce higher levels of methane than regular Vermont cows.)

To read the full report, visit the Sustainable Endowment Institute site. Compare Middlebury to all of the other colleges that you didn't get into, such as Colgate (D!) or Hamilton (C+).

Colleges were evaluated in eight categories:

Administration (A): President Liebowitz signed the Presidents Climate Commitment. Sustainability principles are outlined in the mission statement and are currently being integrated into the new master plan. Middlebury employs a sustainability coordinator and six student interns, as well as a recycling coordinator. The college has a standing environmental council that advises the president.

Climate Change & Energy (A): Middlebury has committed to carbon neutrality by 2016 and plans to build a biomass facility that will reduce carbon emissions by 12,500 tons per year. The college has a solar array on campus and has built a 10-kilowatt wind turbine that is currently supplying power to the grid. Thermostats in residence halls were lowered two degrees at the request of students. Biofuel is used in heating furnaces. (Surely, we could have gotten an A+ if they had known about our elimnation of trays and juice!)

Food & Recycling (A): Dining services spends just under $1 million per year on local food products from over 40 local farms, orchards, and manufacturers. Thirty percent of the college’s food budget is spent on food from within Vermont, and 15 organic products are regularly incorporated into the menu. Strong recycling efforts contribute to a solid waste diversion rate of about 60 percent, including food
waste composting, which comprises 20 percent of recycled materials.

Green Building (A): Green building standards, which incorporate innovative design practices and the use of greencertified wood, have been used in the past five major campus construction projects. The historic renovation of the Hillcrest Environmental Center was completed in June 2007 and will be the first LEED-certified building at the college.

Transportation (A): Support from Middlebury helped the regional transit service put biodiesel-fueled buses into operation, and students and employees may use the service free of charge. The college’s fleet includes some alternative vehicles and hybrid Zipcars were made available to students fall 2007.

Endowment Transparency (C): Endowment holdings are made available to select members of the school community such as the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investment. Proxy voting records are available only to trustees and senior administrators.

Investment Priorities (A): The college aims to optimize investment return and is currently invested in renewable energy investment funds or similar investment vehicles. The college has established a green fund as part of its current capital campaign to which the class of 2007 and other donors have directed gifts. (The capital campaign is another sort of green . . .)

Shareholder Engagement (A): In 2006, the college created the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investment, which includes three students and one alumni, faculty, and staff representative. The committee is charged with making recommendations to the investment committee of the board of trustees in regard to proxy voting and related matters of shareholder engagement.

This is what I love about Middlebury. Before I arrived, I had never heard the words "sustainable," "localvore," "carbon footprint," or "carbon offset." I had heard of "organic," but I had no idea what it meant. Concern for and care of the environment is IMHO the greatest skill that Middlebury College teaches its students. By the time we leave, we all can read 300 pages in one night, write papers pretty well, understand the scientific method, and analyze great works of literature. For me, the single greatest shaper of who I am today and the kind of person I aspire to be, is Middlebury's environmental activism. When I arrived in September 2004, I had no idea that in September 2007 I would be writing my thesis on Jewish environmental ethics. Or, that I would be a localvore.

MiddBlog wants to know: What do you think about Middlebury's grade in sustainability? Should it be higher or lower? What more do you think the College can do to help the environment? Hit the comments.

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