In 2011, Green Mountain College became climate neutral. GMC is only the second college in the nation to achieve this goal, and the first to do so through a significant reduction in on-site emissions achieved through efficiency, adoption of clean energy, and purchase of quantifiable local carbon offsets. In fact, between the time we signed the agreement in 2007 to achieving neutrality in 2011, we reduced actual emissions by nearly 30%.
What is climate neutrality?
In the broadest sense, it is a condition we achieve when we prevent as many greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere as we emit. For a more in-depth explanation of what we count for emissions and how we count them, read our emissions inventories. The basic idea is to reduce our on-site emissions as much as possible, and then cover the remaining emissions by reducing someone else’s emissions somewhere else. Climate change is a global problem, so we approach the challenge through a global solution of reducing global emissions an amount equal to our footprint.
Why do we care about climate neutrality?
An unintended consequence of the fossil-fuel economy is an unsustainable release of greenhouse gases that have altered the earth’s climate. The challenge faced by the human race is truly global in its extent. But by taking responsibility for our behavior in our own lives and communities, we can live more mindful, sustainable lives. As only the second college in the country to achieve the feat, we have an important role to play as a leader, challenging the other nearly 700 colleges and universities who have signed the president’s climate commitment to act.
Our road to climate neutrality is a story with many contributors including students, faculty, staff, government agencies, private foundations, and our friends in the Poultney and Vermont community. Strong partnerships and collaboration on sustainability projects is a key component of our experience.
Green Mountain College was already in the vanguard of sustainability on college campuses when the first meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) was held in 2006, where GMC Provost Dr. William Throop represented the College at planning sessions for the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Later, GMC president Jack Brennan was among the initial signatories of the ACUPCC, and the first in Vermont.
The ACUPCC has called on institutions of higher to raise public consciousness about the dangers of global warming and provide leadership in finding real solutions to reducing our nation’s carbon footprint. GMC took that charge seriously.