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September 28, 2009
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications

Green Mountain College Aims for Carbon Neutrality
by 2011

POULTNEY, VT--The Green Mountain College board of trustees has approved the College’s Climate Action Plan, a document that charts a course for complete carbon neutrality by the year 2011.

“According to our research, only two other colleges in the country have achieved carbon neutrality to date,” said GMC president Paul J. Fonteyn. “This is a very advanced timetable compared to most institutions.”

As one of the first signatories of the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment in 2007, the College obligated itself to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term (2011), mid-term (2020) and long-term (2050). Participating schools are required to submit climate action plans within two years of signing the ACUPCC, and the first group of colleges are releasing their plans this month.

For purposes of the ACUPCC, climate neutrality is defined as having no net greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, achieved by minimizing emissions as much as possible, and using carbon offsets to mitigate the remaining emissions.

In an inventory completed in August, GMC identified 58% of its greenhouse gas emissions as coming from the campus heating plant, which burns fuel oil. The College is building a combined heat and power biomass plant that will burn locally-harvested woodchips instead of oil. The plant, due to be completed in March, will generate 80% of the College’s heat and 20% of its electricity needs while dramatically reducing carbon outputs. To improve thermal efficiency of buildings, GMC will complete the process of replacing single pane windows in its residence halls with high efficiency double pane units.

The Climate Action Plan aims to reduce other “scope one” emissions—greenhouse gases released by sources owned or controlled by the College—by replacing campus vans with more fuel efficient vehicles. Vans that now average 10-13 miles per gallon will be replaced with vehicles averaging 20 mpg. Through a partnership with Central Vermont Public Service, the College will also add a plug-in hybrid vehicle to its campus fleet.

Scope 2 emissions are considered greenhouse gases resulting from electricity production purchased by the College. The combined heat and power facility is projected to produce 400,000kWh of electricity per year. GMC will continue to purchase most of its remaining electricity needs from off-site sources, a portion of which will come from Central Vermont Public Service’s Cow Power program, estimated to cost $18,000 per year. Cow Power delivers energy from burning biogas derived from cow manure on Vermont dairy farms—GMC has been committed to supporting Vermont dairy farmers through this program since 2005.

“From these and other strategies, we estimate the College’s emissions to be about 2,795 metric-tons by 2011,” said Amber Garrard, Green Mountain College’s sustainability coordinator. “It will be necessary for the College to purchase carbon offsets to cover these emissions until further reductions can be made. We don’t consider carbon offsets to be an effective long-term solution for institutional climate neutrality, and will be actively seeking to reduce their necessity in the near future.” The total costs of the offsets are projected to be between $28,000 and $84,000 in 2011.

Green Mountain College is a four year liberal arts college that takes the environment as a unifying theme for its 800 undergraduates in 24 major programs of study.


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