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May 14, 2011
Contact: Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications
802-287-8926
coburnk@greenmtn.edu

Green Mountain Graduates 186 Students; College President Declares Climate Neutrality

POULTNEY--Green Mountain College President Paul Fonteyn announced today at the school’s 174th commencement ceremony that the 700-student Vermont liberal arts school has achieved climate neutrality. GMC becomes the second climate neutral campus in the nation and the first to achieve it through a combination of efficiency, large-scale adoption of clean energy, and purchase of local carbon offsets.

“We take special pride that this milestone has been achieved mostly by steep reductions in our carbon footprint here on campus, and through purchasing carbon offsets that directly benefit our Vermont economy,” said GMC president Paul J. Fonteyn.

The announcement was made before an audience including 186 graduates, their friends and families, and Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, who delivered the commencement address and received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Other honorary degree recipients included journalist Tom Wicker, whose influential "In the Nation" column ran in the New York Times from 1966 through 1992, and businessman Robert H. Young, recently retired as president and CEO of Central Vermont Public Service Corporation (CVPS).

Under Young’s leadership, CVPS created the Cow Power program, which extracts methane gas from manure on Vermont dairy farms and converts it into electricity. Green Mountain became one of the first Cow Power customers in 2006. Cow Power participants pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour and money generated by the program funds grants to local dairy farmers to develop on-farm generation capacity.

In his address, Governor Shumlin told graduates “You have a responsibility that your parents and I never had–you wake up every day knowing that if you don’t finds ways to reduce our addiction to fossil fuel that your planet won’t be livable for your kids and grandkids. That’s kind of a big one. At a time in America when some politicians refuse to acknowledge climate change, you have the tools and skills to combat climate change.”

He also congratulated GMC on its sustainability achievements. “What you are doing here is extraordinary and while other campuses across the country try to catch up, GMC has, for 174 years, been a leader in sustainability. That makes me proud as your governor.”

Since 2006 Green Mountain College’s total Cow Power enrollment has equaled 1.2 million kilowatt-hours annually. This year the Chicago Climate Exchange retired 17,600 metric tons of carbon credits from the Blue Spruce Farm Anaerobic Digestion Project in nearby Bridport, Vt., one of the first “Cow Power” farms in Vermont. Unlike standard renewable energy credits, which only ensure that renewable power is produced somewhere, Cow Power is a regional program where GMC students can actually see the farms where the power is being generated and learn about the process.

Green Mountain also improved its “energy diet” by building a biomass plant that burns locally cultivated woodchips instead of fuel oil. The plant officially opened in April 2010. The facility is designed to provide 85% of the heat and 20% of the electricity needed for all two-dozen campus buildings. According to the College’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, the biomass plant will reduce fuel oil consumption from 230,000 gallons to 40,700 gallons per year.

Green Mountain College students were important contributors to the climate neutrality achievement. A 2005 freshman Honors Seminar advocated for switching from fuel oil renewable energy for heating campus buildings—these students created the Honors Club and began to investigate alternative fuel sources. The feasibility study for the biomass facility was funded largely through a $10,000 Student Campus Greening Fund (SCGF) grant. SCGF monies come from students activity fees, and students vote each year for deserving environmental projects on campus.

“We’ve emphasized real change here through investing in sustainable energy and reducing our carbon footprint,” explained President Fonteyn. “I think we’ve come up with a creative approach that can be replicated at other colleges and universities.”

Founded in 1834, Green Mountain College is a private liberal arts institution with 800 undergraduate students that takes environmental sustainability as a unifying theme across the curriculum. Green Mountain was named the nation’s “Coolest School” in 2010 by Sierra magazine.

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