POULTNEY–Green Mountain College has been recognized as a national sustainability leader in the 2015 Sustainable Campus Index, released Oct. 13 by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). GMC achieved the top spot for curriculum and air quality achievements, and the school was ranked no. 2 in the area of socially responsible investment strategies. The 2015 Sustainable Campus Index highlights top-performing colleges and universities in 17 areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) developed by AASHE.
Green Mountain, which received a “gold” designation by AASHE in 2014, ranked first in the curriculum category, which recognizes institutions with education programs and courses that address sustainability. GMC declared its environmental mission in 1995 and has built its curriculum and campus culture around sustainability.
GMC shared the No. 1 ranking with Colby College in the area of air quality. The STARS air and climate subcategory recognizes institutions that are measuring and reducing their greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. Five years ago, GMC opened a new $5.8 million biomass plant, which now generates 85 percent of the school’s annual heating needs. The facility replaced #6 fuel oil with locally harvested woodchips to provide heat in cold months. The biomass plant and a host of other initiatives have resulted in a 41 percent reduction in greenhouse gases across campus since 2007.
“Green Mountain College’s participation in STARS and strong performance demonstrates significant leadership and commitment to advancing sustainability,” said AASHE’s executive director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “We are pleased to recognize GMC for working to secure a brighter future by incorporating sustainability into campus operations, academics, administration and engagement.”
GMC ranked second in the nation in the “investment” category, as a result of the college’s recent move to divest from 200 publicly traded companies, which hold most of the world’s known coal, oil and gas reserves. Finally, the college was named a “top performer” in the STARS coordination and planning metrics. This recognizes institutions that are dedicating resources to sustainability coordination, developing plans to move toward sustainability, and engaging the campus community in governance. Green Mountain College’s strategic plan, Sustainability 2020, sets the goal of complete energy independence on campus by the end of the decade.
“The consistently high rating the College continually receives is a testament to the hard work of the entire campus community,” said GMC sustainability director Ryan Ihrke. “Many of the best ideas, like the biomass plant, come from students who are challenged in their classes to bridge the gap between the purely theoretical and the practical. They learn how to make positive change in their community and see the results of their work.”
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.