Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 73.16
Liaison Ryan Ihrke
Submission Date July 29, 2011
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.0

Green Mountain College
IN-4: Innovation 4

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Bill Throop
Provost's Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

Carbon Offset Selection Process

During the 2010-11 academic year, a large portion of the campus community participated in an innovative educational process for deciding what kind of carbon offsets to purchase to achieve climate neutrality.

Green Mountain College’s Climate Action Plan created in 2009 outlined steps to ensure reductions in institutional greenhouse gas emissions and set a climate neutrality date of 2011. After emphasizing the reduction of emissions, the CAP prescribed the purchase of carbon offsets to neutralize emissions that could not be minimized (e.g. commuting and institution-financed air travel).

The Campus Sustainability Council (CSC) chose 2011 for the climate neutrality date because it felt that GMC, as a national leader in campus sustainability, needed to lead by example and take immediate action to mitigate climate change. The motivating factors included a desire to encourage other institutions to also act quickly and to educate GMC students in methods of behavior change and institutional action needed to respond responsibly to a global crisis.

In the early months of 2010, the CSC developed a carbon offset purchasing policy. This document provided guidelines for how to select a qualified carbon offset provider for GMC to ensure offsets of high quality that fit the mission of the College and values of the GMC community.

That fall, a subcommittee of the CSC was appointed to review potential offset providers, conduct phone interviews with candidates, and select three providers to bring to campus to give public presentations to the GMC community. The subcommittee chose a large and internationally recognized offset vendor, a provider based in Burlington, Vermont that offered local offset projects, and representatives from Central Vermont Public Service, GMC’s utility provider, who offered to create a locally based project by certifying carbon offsets from methane capture and anaerobic digestion using their cow power program based on Vermont dairy farms.

These three providers varied greatly in the size of company and size and location of project types. All three were asked to do a public presentation for the campus community explaining their approach to offsets and descriptions of their projects. All members of the college community were invited to attend. Faculty members were encouraged to bring their classes or provide extra credit to participating students.

Feedback forms were given to all presentation attendees and asked community members to evaluate each provider and indicate strengths and weaknesses according to location of project, cost, social and economic benefits, and educational value. The provider’s presentations were made available following each presentation for review. In addition, representatives from the Sustainability Office spent two days following the presentations tabling outside the dining hall during lunch to answer questions and solicit additional feedback.

This feedback was compiled by the Sustainability Office and shared with the CSC. Upon analyzing the results, it became apparent that social and economic benefits were the highest priorities to the GMC community, followed by the ability to visit and interact with site providers and directly engage in academic endeavors related to offset purchases. In addition, the community indicated a strong need to align institutional values with the values represented by the projects themselves and the companies providing the offsets. The CSC shared the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each provider with Cabinet for a final decision.

The Decision & Rationale:
The American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) specifies that institutions should achieve climate neutrality by reducing or offsetting direct emissions created on campus (Scope 1), emissions associated with purchased electricity (Scope 2), and emissions from commuting and from air travel paid for by the institution (Scope 3). Green Mountain College has also chosen to include emissions from solid waste in its Scope 3 assessment.

The ACUPCC Voluntary Carbon Offset Protocol provides guidelines for determining high-quality offsets through the following principles: “emissions reductions should be real and tangible; additional; transparent; measurable; permanent; verified; synchronous; registered; and retired.” It was important to the CSC that all offset projects supported each principle to ensure that offsets purchased were high quality.

**Green Mountain College needed to offset 2,729MT of CO2e in 2011 in order to achieve climate neutrality (546MT scope 1, 878MT scope 2, 1,305MT scope 3). We have purchased close to 5,000MT of offsets from CVPS Cow Power Program for 2011.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

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.