Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 73.23
Liaison Heather Albert-Knopp
Submission Date Feb. 28, 2022

STARS v2.2

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 an active student group focused on sustainability?:

Name and a brief description of the 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.

Does the institution have a garden, farm, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, or an urban agriculture project where students are able to gain experience in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems?:

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.

Does the institution have a student-run enterprise that includes sustainability as part of its mission statement or stated purpose?:

A brief description of the student-run enterprises:

The COA Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery sustainable enterprise incubator provides eligible students academic credit, professional services, and access to seed funding to develop businesses. Offering academic credit aligns the entrepreneurial and educational interests of students, allowing them to start enterprises because of their education. The Hatchery allows students to walk the entrepreneurial high wire with a safety net and support 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:
-Move Free, a lifestyle brand of outdoor apparel deeply rooted in giving back to communities and conservation organizations. Founded by Patrick Carron '23
-District of Curiosity, a youth empowerment and educational enrichment program helping middle school students in Washington DC overcome achievement gaps. Founded by Vonnie Love '21.
-Long Cove Sea Farm, a boutique aquaculture farm that sustainably raises oysters in the waters of Penobscot Bay, Maine. Founded by Abigail Barrows MPhil '18

More info on sustainable student-run enterprises can be found on the Hatchery's webpage at http://www.coa.edu/hatchery/

Does the institution have a sustainable investment fund, green revolving fund, or sustainable microfinance initiative through which students can develop socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible investment and financial skills?:

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.


Has the institution hosted a conference, speaker series, symposium, or similar event focused on sustainability during the previous three years that had students as the intended audience?:

A brief description of the conferences, speaker series, symposia, or similar events focused on 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: recent topics have included small businesses and sustainability, participatory and inclusive approaches to sustainable development, the United Nations'climate change negotiations, and sustainable food systems.

The Henry David Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative 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.

Has the institution hosted a cultural arts event, installation, or performance focused on sustainability with the previous three years that had students as the intended audience?:

A brief description of the cultural arts events, installations, or performances focused on sustainability:

In fall 2019, the COA Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative hosted a visit by the performance and organizing collective Complex Movements. The Detroit-based collective supports the transformation of communities by exploring the connections of complex science and social justice movements through multimedia interactive performance work. Their three-day visit included a film screening, group presentation, and workshop with students focused on building critical connections between communities, art, and organizing.

Does the institution have a wilderness or outdoors program that follow Leave No Trace principles?:

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.

Has the institution had a sustainability-focused theme chosen for a themed semester, year, or first-year experience during the previous three years?:

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

The Human Ecology Core Course is offered each year, 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.

Does the institution have a program through which students can learn sustainable life skills?:

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.

Does the institution offer sustainability-focused student employment opportunities?:

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 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.

Does the institution have a graduation pledge through which students pledge to consider social and environmental responsibility in future job and other decisions?:

A brief description of the graduation pledge(s):

A brief description of other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives that do not fall into one of the above categories:

The college's Community Energy Center coordinates 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.

Additional documentation to support the submission:

COA Beech Hill Farm - https://coa.edu/farms/beech-hill-farm/
COA 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:

A listing of sustainability-related student groups is available here:

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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.