Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.48
Liaison David Gibson
Submission Date March 30, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

College of the Atlantic
EN-3: Student Life

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Heather Albert-Knopp
Dean of Admission
Office of Admission
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have one or more active student groups focused on sustainability?:
Yes

A brief description of active student groups focused on sustainability:

Please note that all of the following groups are governed and led by students:

The Campus Committee for Sustainability addresses a wide range of sustainability initiatives on campus. The committee has been involved with efforts ranging from installation of clotheslines at student residences to improving on-campus compost systems, installing solar-powered car-charging stations, and leading campus efforts to divest from fossil fuels.

Earth in Brackets is a student group that works to become more informed about and involved in international environmental conferences and negotiations, along with local environmental challenges. The group provides space and support for environmental activism, organizes educational presentations and local actions, and discusses and plans around issues of environmental justice, energy transition, and more. At least once each year students participate in international UN-affiliated conventions on climate change.

The Zero Waste Club works on waste-reduction issues on campus. Members educate themselves and the college community about local systems for utilizing the 12Rs zero-waste principles: reduce, reuse, repair, redesign, repurpose, replenish, research, reach-out, refuse, reconsider, remember, and recycle. The club manages zero-waste options/alternatives such as community composting and bag bans. The group is involved in the annual campus-wide waste audit to inform efforts to meet COA’s zero-waste goals. In addition, the group conducts research, hosts film screenings, and organizes field trips to local waste-related facilities.

The Food Group is a committee dedicated to looking at the sustainability of campus food offerings in our dining hall and cafe. This group includes dining hall staff, faculty, and students, and is convened as needed.


The website URL where information about the student groups is available (optional):
Does the institution have gardens, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery programs, and/or urban agriculture projects where students are able to gain experience in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems?:
Yes

A brief description of the gardens, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery programs, and/or urban agriculture projects:

COA has a half-acre organic community garden on the main campus. The community garden has been in operation for over 40 years and provides garden plots for community members and classes, such as Organic Gardening, which use the garden as a field laboratory. The community garden is also home to the campus composting system.

COA owns two certified-organic farms: Beech Hill Farm (with approximately 5 acres in vegetable production) and the Peggy Rockefeller Farms (which oversees chickens, sheep, cows, hay, and a newly planted heritage apple orchard). Both farms provide numerous opportunities for student involvement, ranging from research projects (one recent example involves exploring the use of alder wood chips to improve soil fertility), to enterprise development (such as a student-run, pastured poultry operation), to classes (farm planning, soils, forest management, etc.), to work opportunities as either volunteers or paid laborers in the fields, managing the farm stand, or working with the animals. Beech Hill Farm offers a Community Supported Agriculture program, in which many students and members of the Bar Harbor community partake, in addition to a retail farm stand and wholesale food production for the college's dining services. Each farm or garden operation is coordinated by college staff or faculty, but several student-governed projects take place on each site.

Beech Hill Farm provides produce to those in need through its Share the Harvest (STH) program, which is coordinated entirely by student employees of the farm. STH offers both farm stand vouchers and a subsidized Community Supported Agriculture program, while additionally donating to local food pantries. The goal of STH is to fill overlooked gaps in food access on Mount Desert Island, and provides those involved with needed perspective on the causes and effects of food insecurity.


The website URL where information about the gardens, farms or agriculture projects is available (optional):
Does the institution have student-run enterprises that include sustainability as part of their mission statements or stated purposes (e.g. cafés through which students gain sustainable business skills)?:
Yes

A brief description of the student-run enterprises:

COA operates a sustainable enterprise incubator, known as the Hatchery, that supports students as they model, test, and launch their enterprises. Each project that comes through the Hatchery utilizes the triple bottom line accounting framework, striking a balance between social, environmental, and financial considerations. Recent Hatchery projects include: Gourmet Butanol, a project to convert food waste into biofuel using an anaerobic digestion system; Peak Pursuits, an after-school outdoor program for kids designed as an antidote to nature deficit disorder; Rio Furniture and Design, custom-built sustainable furniture; La Coyotera Farm, organic agave production using heritage farming methods; ReProduce, a sustainable farm-surplus startup that addresses farm food waste in Maine by purchasing and processing imperfect and surplus produce, making it more marketable to consumers. More info on sustainable student-run enterprises can be found on the Hatchery's webpage at http://www.coa.edu/hatchery/index.php.


The website URL where information about the student-run enterprises is available (optional):
Does the institution have sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives through which students can develop socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible investment and financial skills?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives:

The Sustainable Investment Fund was formed in January 2015 and is composed of students, faculty, and staff at the college. The group operates as a committee, overseeing a small portion of the college's endowment, and is responsible for making socially and ecologically conscious investment decisions for this fund. The fund offers a place for dialogue, research, and action related to the college's sustainable investment policies and practices. It is student-led, with students facilitating conversations concerning possible actions to take and educating other students on the basics of sustainable investment, but students, faculty, and staff work collaboratively on decisions before they are final.


The website URL where information about the sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives is available (optional):
Does the institution have conferences, speaker series, symposia or similar events related to sustainability that have students as the intended audience?:
Yes

A brief description of the conferences, speaker series, symposia or similar events related to sustainability:

The college holds a weekly lecture series, the Human Ecology Forum, which is based on the work of the academic community and draws on artists, poets, and political and religious leaders from around the world. Many Human Ecology Forums address environmental and social sustainability issues. Topics are inherently wide-ranging: in 2016 and 2017 topics included small businesses and sustainability, water conservation and bottled water, participatory and inclusive approaches to sustainable development, the United Nations' COP21 climate change negotiations in Paris, sustainable food systems, and the opening of COA’s Community Energy Center.

The Henry David Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative, which was established in the fall of 2016, combines academic preparation, experiential learning and action in international and local settings, and peer-to-peer learning and mentoring. Aside from aiding in the development of local energy projects, the initiative supports students as they organize and participate in peer-to-peer training and collaborative skill-building workshops, known as Thoreau Gatherings. At these gatherings, which are facilitated by professionals in environmental fields and skills relevant to the theme of the gathering at hand, students gain communication, advocacy, and leadership skills that help them be more effective in their environmental work.

Seminar in Climate Change is one example of the many courses at COA that offers a speaker series open to the college community. This class’s speaker series is interdisciplinary, making a point to feature professionals and academics from the wide range of fields that can shed light on the issue of climate change. A goal of the speaker series is to create positive discussion and planning for climate change by fostering common discourse across disciplines and breaking down barriers to understanding.


The website URL where information about the conferences, speaker series, symposia or similar events related to sustainability is available (optional):
Does the institution have cultural arts events, installations or performances related to sustainability that have students as the intended audience?:
Yes

A brief description of the cultural arts events, installations or performances related to sustainability:

Each term sees numerous cultural arts events, installations, and performances related to sustainability. Recent examples include the following:

In the spring of 2016 Double Edge Theatre came to campus for interactive programs with students and a theatrical interpretation of “The Odyssey.” Double Edge explored sustainability in terms of their group’s farm as well as in terms of their own artistic model.

For her senior project Aneesa Khan ‘17 completed a graphic biography of Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian climate justice activist, which was showcased in the Blum Gallery. The tale shows Khan’s journey in finding her path to Praxis, a Greek word meaning action and the title of her novel. Driven by the unsustainable systems we live in and fueled by the injustices of climate change, Khan shared her story through the art of words, drawing, and biography.


The website URL where information about the cultural arts events, installations or performances is available (optional):
Does the institution have wilderness or outdoors programs (e.g. that organize hiking, backpacking, kayaking, or other outings for students) that follow Leave No Trace principles?:
Yes

A brief description of the wilderness or outdoors programs that follow Leave No Trace principles:

COA has a vibrant student-led outdoor program, helmed by the college’s Outing Club, which offers regular day and overnight trips including kayaking, backpacking, sailing, hiking, and more. These activities take place both close to home in Acadia National Park and on Frenchman Bay, and further afield in locations such as Maine's North woods and Western mountains. On each trip led by the outing club, participants learn about and follow Leave No Trace principles.

Returning students in the Outing Club lead the six-day Outdoor Orientation Program (OOPs) trips before school starts in the fall. The majority of incoming students participate in OOPs trips. Alongside introducing new students to the natural settings in and surrounding Maine, each OOPs trip educates participants in and emphasizes the importance of Leave No Trace principles.


The website URL where information about the wilderness or outdoors programs is available (optional):
Does the institution have sustainability-related themes chosen for themed semesters, years, or first-year experiences (e.g. choosing a sustainability-related book for common reading)?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-related themes chosen for themed semesters, years, or first-year experiences:

The Human Ecology Core Course is offered each fall, and is a requirement for all first-year students. Human ecology, the central study of College of the Atlantic, refers to the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between humans and their natural and cultural environments. The purpose of this introductory course is to instill into the incoming class the importance of comprising a community of learners that explores the questions within human ecology from the perspectives of the arts, humanities, and sciences — both inside and outside of the classroom. The course typically focuses on a different issue of global concern each year, such as water shortage, food sovereignty, or wealth inequality, and is team-taught by faculty members from a range of different disciplines. As each first-year student must enroll in this course, each of these students’ first years invariably begins with the tone set by the sustainably oriented inquiry of human ecology.


The website URL where information about the sustainability-related themes is available (optional):
Does the institution have programs through which students can learn sustainable life skills?:
Yes

A brief description of the programs through which students can learn sustainable life skills:

The college’s Outing Club offers several intensive Leadership Programs to interested students each year focused on different manners of being active and exploring the outdoors. One such program is the Traditional Life Skills program, which focuses on developing the ability to survive on a long-term scale off-the-grid and in the wilderness, including during the harsh winter months. Participants learn how to pole canoes, build shelters, create and maintain fires, etc. This program instills in participants mastery over skills that are inherently sustainable when compared to life in cities and suburbs, where travel is often done by burning gasoline and the majority of purchases come with slow-degrading packaging.

Each first-year student is required to spend at least their first year living in on-campus housing — a process which naturally instills in students habits and skills necessary for sustainable lifestyles beyond campus. Student Resident Assistants (RAs) oversee each campus residence and orient new students to the presence and importance of the many sustainable aspects of on-campus housing. For example, COA’s newest student residence, the Kathryn W. Davis Village, is super-insulated, uses wood pellets for heating, has composting toilets, employs grey-water recycling and preheating of cold water to reduce energy used for showers, and includes compost buckets in each kitchen. An aspect of the RA’s job is to emphasize the importance of proper use of the building’s composting toilets, common-sense guidelines for when to use and not to use utilities requiring energy, and proper disposal (reusing and recycling, if possible) of unwanted items. Each residential student, by virtue of living a year of supervised sustainable living, leaves imbued with the ability and drive to live sustainably in other aspects of life.

Each residence on campus holds a friendly competition every year centered on furthering the ability to cut energy use from day-to-day life. A prize is offered to all residents of the residence which is able to decrease its energy use the most, on a per-person basis, from a pre-gathered baseline amount of energy use. This is a morale-boosting event each year that effectively further incentivizes living a sustainable lifestyle.


The website URL where information about the sustainable life skills programs is available (optional):
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Does the institution offer sustainability-focused student employment opportunities?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-focused student employment opportunities offered by the institution:

There are numerous student employment opportunities, both work-study and non-work-study, that focus on sustainability. The college’s newly formed Discarded Resources work-study team focuses on composting and recycling, and several student employment opportunities are offered with the college’s Community Energy Center, which focuses on the implementation of renewable energy projects on campus and throughout Mount Desert Island.

Student workers also: manage the campus composting system, including all dining hall and dorm food waste and paper towels from bathrooms; maintain the college's composting toilet system; work on all aspects of production on the college’s organic farms; manage the campus organic gardens and landscape; run the sustainable food systems program; monitor energy use on campus; and track sustainability in dining hall food purchases.

COA also offers, through the Community Energy Center, the Summer Energy Fellows program. These student fellows have a direct hand in developing community energy projects, such as communal solar arrays, and they work on energy and sustainability policies, practices, and on-campus data gathering.


The website URL where information about the student employment opportunities is available:
Does the institution have graduation pledges through which students pledge to consider social and environmental responsibility in future job and other decisions?:
No

A brief description of the graduation pledges:
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The website URL where information about the graduation pledges is available (optional):
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Does the institution have other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives?:
Yes

A brief description of the other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives:

Students coordinate use of the college's plug-in electric car, which is available to college community members wishing to drive to both academic and non-academic appointments, explore Mount Desert Island, pick up their groceries, visit the local YMCA, etc.

COA students coordinate a Farm-to-School program at the local elementary and middle school, which introduces sixth-grade students to the importance of sustainable food systems through experiential learning. Working once a week throughout the school year with sixth-grade science and social studies teachers, COA students teach fifty middle school students about the importance of farming and knowing where food really comes from. Through hands-on activities and field trips to local farms and Maine's Common Ground Country Fair, the students teach on sustainable food systems themes including: Maine agriculture; soil health and composting; cooking and food preservation; animal care; and the science of gardening. Students are involved with the planning and construction of a school greenhouse and the implementation of a school-wide composting effort at the elementary and middle school.


The website URL where information about other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives is available (optional):
Estimated percentage of students (full-time and part-time) that participate annually in sustainability-focused co-curricular education and outreach programs (0-100):
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Web addresses for COA's organic farms and gardens:
Beech Hill Farm - https://coa.edu/farms/beech-hill-farm/
Peggy Rockefeller Farms - https://coa.edu/farms/peggy-rockefeller-farms/
COA Community Garden - https://coa.edu/gardens/

Web address for student group Earth in Brackets:
http://www.earthinbrackets.org/

A listing of sustainability-related student groups is available here:
https://coa.edu/about/environmental-commitment/sustainability-in-the-curriculum/

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.