Bridget Montesanti, OTA intern
College students are at the threshold of new technologies in the classroom, and they represent the epicenter of knowledge. They test that knowledge by putting their ideas into practice, which is exactly what the students at Middlebury are doing with their carbon neutrality program.
Dating back to 2000, students, faculty, staff, and trustees began efforts to reduce Middlebury’s carbon footprint. It wasn’t until 2007, though, that students really stepped up to the challenge. A group of students, faculty, and staff created a group called the Carbon Neutrality Initiative Task Force and successfully got the Board of Trustees to adopt a program they named Midd-Shift. The program aims to reach carbon neutrality by either buying carbon credit or offsetting the carbon that is released, with the ultimate goal of achieving a zero carbon footprint by 2016. The group developed a 6-year “toolkit,” outlining the campus’ transition to carbon neutrality. The toolkit outlines how the program is financed (this is done through several sources, including the College’s “green fund,” made up of money raised by students and government subsidies) and what steps the school can take to lower the carbon emissions.
Midd-Shift has achieved considerable accomplishments since its inception. In 2009, Middlebury added a $12 million biomass gasification plant. This provides a steam heating and cooling system as opposed to fuel oil heating and cooling, which releases more carbon. This steam heating system will reduce the College’s carbon footprint by 40% and decrease annual oil use by half, which is particularly beneficial in light of current gas prices. Taken from an article posted Middlebury’s sustainable pages, the school says “Long-term sustainability use is a wise investment.” Given the system’s success thus far, it seems hard to disagree.
Given the large upfront cost of the Carbon Neutrality Program overall, some students think carbon reduction is not the best use of funding. A Facebook page called “Every time MiddShift sends me an email, I take the elevator” notes, for example, that Middlebury’s carbon footprint is small, since it is comprised of less than 3,000. Also, considering Middlebury already has invested significant resources in environmentally friendly programs, the group doesn’t see the need for the Midd-Shift program.
In fact, though, Midd-Shift is making valuable changes that impact others. Its carbon neutrality toolkit has been used as a model for other colleges like UC Berkley, which created their own carbon neutrality program called CalCAP. The program has also encouraged other campuses to take on the challenge to be carbon neutral. Although Middlebury is small when it comes to colleges and universities, they are making a notable difference in the realm of sustainability. And, thanks to new students joining the cause and continued support from alumni, the success of the program continues to grow.
Wouldn’t it be cool if ALL campuses were carbon neutral? Just think how much it would decrease the United States’ Carbon Footprint!
other campus Carbon Neutrality plans…