Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 76.45
Liaison Ryan Ihrke
Submission Date Oct. 17, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Green Mountain College
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Aaron Witham
Director of Sustainability
Sustainability Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have current and formal plans to advance sustainability in the following areas? Do the plans include measurable objectives?:
Current and Formal Plans (Yes or No) Measurable Objectives (Yes or No)
Curriculum Yes Yes
Research (or other scholarship) Yes Yes
Campus Engagement Yes Yes
Public Engagement Yes Yes
Air and Climate Yes Yes
Buildings Yes Yes
Dining Services/Food Yes Yes
Energy Yes Yes
Grounds Yes Yes
Purchasing Yes Yes
Transportation Yes Yes
Waste Yes Yes
Water Yes Yes
Diversity and Affordability Yes Yes
Health, Wellbeing and Work Yes Yes
Investment Yes Yes
Other Yes Yes

A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Curriculum:

The College's strategic plan, Sustainability 2020, outlines the College's approach to achieving authentic sustainability in all areas of the College. A gantt chart for the plan indicates timelines and responsible parties. A Sustainability 2020 implementation task force developed a 30 page report that determined the main metrics used to measure authentic sustainability, and an institutional research report keyed to the plan provides 2013 data for the metrics. In the spaces below, relevant elements of the Sustainability 2020 plan are identified and in some cases additional planning documents are also identified.

Specific curricular goals include the following:
• Further develop environmental programs with a national reputation for producing graduates for jobs in a sustainable economy (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Develop undergraduate and graduate programs in the area of human health and quality of life and integrate this new emphasis into the general education curriculum (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Increase the number and quality of sustainability skills intensive courses offered (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Curriculum plan(s):

• Alumni survey data indicating higher job placement numbers in green jobs
• Data from ELA, NSSE, and SSI surveys indicating student satisfaction with what they are learning in the classroom
• Increase in the number and quality of sustainability skills intensive courses offered
• Development of new undergraduate and graduate programs in human health by 2020 with appropriate facilities and faculty to carry-out those programs


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Curriculum plan(s):

• Provost's Office
• Graduate Program
• Faculty Curriculum Committee


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Research (or other scholarship):

• Research and quantify environmental impacts from all College purchases through classes (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Research potential alumni impacts on natural, social, and financial capital and begin to estimate these impacts through the annual alumni survey (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Research plan(s):

• Carry-out a successful inventory of environmental impacts from all College purchases through quantitative undergraduate classes every two years through the year 2020. The impact areas include the following:
Ozone Depletion
Global Warming
Acidification
Carcinogenicity
Noncarcinogenicity
Criteria Air Pollutants
Eutrophication
Smog Formation
Ecotoxicity
Fossil Fuel Use
Habitat/T&E Species
Water Use

The objective is to identify the highest impact areas across a range of metrics and try to adjust purchasing behavior to minimize impact in those areas.

• To measure alumni impact the College added 12 questions to the annual alumni survey asking graduates items like the square footage of their home, their mode choice for transportation, the number of hours they spend each week enhancing their community, etc. The survey went to all graduates one, three, and ten years out. Data will be collected every year and the objective is to see these numbers increase over time as the College advances its Sustainability 2020 plan.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Research plan(s):

• Quantitative Environmental Literacy Program
• Career Services
• Sustainability Office


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance Campus Engagement around sustainability:

• Increase participation in the student Green Job Corps to all campus departments in order to build ownership over campus-wide sustainability initiatives, while also increasing the value of participation for students as they build their professional skills (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Increase campus-wide engagement in helping to achieve sustainability goals through more volunteering, service-learning course-work, and employee involvement (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Campus Engagement plan:

• Participation in GJC will be measured by number of departments that participate, with the goal of having all departments participate by the year 2020.
• The Sustainability Office has set a short-term goal of increasing total volunteering/service learning hours per student by 25% by the end of FY 2014. The long-term goal is to double the number of hours. Hours are estimated through a collaborative effort between the faculty service learning leader and the sustainable community development outreach coordinator. Some of the data originate from records the outreach coordinator keeps on major events and projects. The rest of the data come from a faculty survey.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Campus Engagement plan(s):

• Faculty Service Learning Leader
• Sustainable Community Development Outreach Coordinator


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance Public Engagement around sustainability:

• Work closely with the Town of Poultney on the Poultney 2020 program to build the sustainability and vibrancy of Poultney in the areas of natural, social, and financial capital (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Public Engagement plan(s):

• For Poultney 2020, objectives include the number of people who attend community meetings for Poultney 2020 and the completion of projects started by sub-groups. For example, the Stone Valley Arts subgroup will achieve success by successful creation of their non-profit organization, and finding stable revenue streams to keep the enterprise going. The parks and trails sub-groups will achieve success by procuring space for a park, building a park, and revitalizing the Town's trails system.
• The frequency and attendance at major outreach events is another important objective. For example, the sustainability office aims to ensure that a Thanks & Giving day of service is carried out every fall and that a successful Earth Fair and Green Up Day is carried out every spring. Attendance for all of these events is estimated and will continue to be estimated to measure progress.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Public Engagement plan(s):

• Brennan Chair in Sustainable Business
• Sustainability Office


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Air and Climate:

The College has already achieved climate neutrality under the ACUPCC, and is committed to maintaining neutrality in the future. The climate reduction plan is posted on the GMC sustainability webpage and the ACUPCC website.
• The overall goal is to limit sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from scopes one, two, and existing accounting for three in order to lower the cost of maintaining climate neutrality over the long-term (Climate Action Plan)


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Air and Climate plan(s):

• Short-term objectives include completing all efficiency improvements outlined in the comprehensive thermal and electrical energy audit completed in the spring of 2012 (most notably, completing the PRV steam pipe upgrade in the office buildings in order to increase efficiency of the biomass plant, so that it can further offset fossil fuel use on campus).
• The mid-term objective (by 2020) is to produce all of the College’s energy through renewable sources. As old infrastructure is upgraded, new technologies and systems will be considered to reach energy goals and provide opportunities for education on campus.
• The long-term objective by 2050, is to have a climate neutral campus fleet and to reduce emissions from air travel by 80 percent.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Air and Climate plan(s):

• Business Office
• Facilities Department run by DTZ
• Sustainability Office


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Buildings:

• Increase the efficiency and run-time of the biomass plant until it exceeds 85% of the heating load on campus (Climate Action Plan).
• Sustain the built environment on campus through new capital investment and proper maintenance at a level where future generations of students can enjoy an infrastructure stock with a net quality that is better than today’s infrastructure stock (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Buildings plan(s):

• A measurement of the heating load of the biomass plant takes place monthly, as facilities produces a report summarizing the amount of number six fuel oil purchased compared to the tons of woodchips purchased. At the end of the year, the sustainability office compares the total MMBTUs produced by both sources and estimates the amount of heating load covered. The College aims to achieve this goal as soon as possible, but at least by 2020.
• The value of capital building stock on campus will be monitored by tracking investments in maintenance projects versus the rate of depreciation.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Buildings plan(s):

• Facilities Department run by DTZ
• Sustainability Office


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Dining Services/Food:

• Increase the percentage of food served in the dining hall from the college farm (Farm & Food Project Plan)
• Increase the percentage of food served in the dining hall from local and community based and/or third-party sustainably certified (Sustainable Purchasing Policy)
• Become the first college or university in the United States contracted with a major dining services provider to purchase most of its animal products through humanely managed sources, as defined either through a reputable certification or GMC's own research on farm operations (Farm & Food Project Plan)


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Dining Services/Food plan(s):

• Every year, Cerridwen Farm tallies their sales to dining services. Comparing these sales to the dining hall's total budget will reveal the amount originating from certain sources. Within ten years, the Farm aims to provide between 10-20% of the food consumed in the dining hall. As a complimentary objective, the dining hall has set a target of 40% by 2020 for the percentage of its food sourced from local and community owned and/or third-party sustainably certified (for which the on-campus farm would qualify).
• The goal to purchase most animal products from humanely-sourced vendors will be monitored by a collaborative effort between Cerridwen Farm's Farm & Food Project, Chartwells (dining services), and students groups such as Center of the Plate & Slow Living Club. Their objective is to phase in the purchase of humane animal products steadily over the next several years, so that by 2020, all pork and poultry will be humanely-sourced, and beef when feasible.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Dining Services/Food plan(s):

• Chartwells Dining Services
• Cerridwen Farm


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Energy:

• Following Ecological Economist Herman Daly's (1991) framework, reduce fossil fuel use to a rate no greater than the rate at which renewable substitutes are being developed, while renewable resources should be used at a rate that is equal to or less than the rate at which renewable resources are regenerating (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Produce all of the College’s energy through renewable means by 2020 (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Energy plan(s):

• Reducing fossil fuel use at a rate less than or equal to the global production curve for renewables requires on-going monitoring and data collection from the sustainability office. The sustainability office tallies use of fossil fuels every year. The sustainability office will work with faculty to involve classes to assess if the rate of use is higher or lower than global production of renewables. Classes and faculty will make recommendations to the sustainability office, sustainability council, and cabinet on strategies for reducing consumption.
• The sustainability office will also calculate the percentage of energy coming from renewables and engage classes in this analysis, while the facilities department will help to develop projects to increase renewables until the 100% renewable goal is reached.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Energy plan(s):

• Cabinet
• Environmental Studies and REED Faculty
• The Sustainability Office
• Facilities Department run by DTZ


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Grounds:

• Have a net positive impact on campus and regional biodiversity and ecosystem health, rather than minimizing negative impact, by carrying out restoration projects (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Grounds plan(s):

• Every two years, natural area assessments will be carried out by classes on campus as they were in the fall of 2013 to gauge the health of the ecosystem in terms of habitat, species richness, and species diversity.
• Additionally, the impact the College has on regional biodiversity and ecosystem health will be assessed by classes every two years. The first assessment was done in the spring of 2013 and was focused on the impact of the biomass plant's supply chain.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Grounds plan(s):

• Faculty with expertise in natural sciences


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Purchasing:

• Conduct a comprehensive account of scope 3 emissions from purchases in order to achieve substantial reductions of these emissions, while offsetting the remaining emissions through quantifiable emissions reductions either from an off-campus project verified by a third-party or through emissions reductions demonstrated by alumni through their impact on the outside world and attributable to a GMC education (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Limit embodied energy, waste generation, water use and other environmental impacts from purchases on campus to a rate that would not deplete the planet’s finite resources and production ability beyond a level that can be sustained indefinitely if all other institutions did the same (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Purchasing plan(s):

• Assessments will take place every two years through quantitative classes such as quantitative environmental assessment.
• The measurable objective will be to make high impact decisions to purchase different products and limit the aggregate amount of product purchasing enough so that the change can clearly be observed in the data


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Purchasing plan(s):

• Quantitative Environmental Literacy Faculty


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Transportation:

• Make sustainable transportation options the preferred method of travel among all students, staff, and faculty through increased marketing efforts to promote existing alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles, expanding offerings of alternatives and carrying out programing to make riders feel comfortable using alternatives (Sustainability Plan overseen by sustainability office and campus sustainability council)


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Transportation plan(s):

• Increase ridership on the regional bus service to 1,200 by the end of 2015 (as measured by the Marble Valley Regional Transit Service
• Increase registrations in Go Vermont's online ridersharing program to 100 by the end of 2015 as measured by Go Vermont's database and increase registrations to 25% of the population by 2020
• Use Zipcar services for the majority of their available time as measured by Zipcar's data tracking system that tracks the total hours the cars are being used. GMC aims to achieve this goal as soon as possible.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Transportation plan(s):

• Sustainability Office
• Student Life Department
• Campus Sustainability Council


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Waste:

• Increase total waste diversion to over 50% overall, and simultaneously limit the amount of divertable material found in the trash to less than 1%, including compostable food scraps, e-waste and recyclable plastics, metals, papers and glass (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan)


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Waste plan(s):

• The waste diversion rate is calculated annually by the sustainability office. The objective is to exceed 50% diversion by the year 2020. In the short-term, the goal is to achieve a 3% increase in the diversion rate per year (percentage referring to total waste generated).
• The sustainability office and a biology professor experienced in waste management carry-out audits of the trash to estimate the percentage of divertable material found in it. Metrics include estimated tonnage and estimated volume. By 2020, GMC aims to find less than 1% divertable material in the trash by weight.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Waste plan(s):

• Sustainability Office
• Faculty with expertise in waste management
• Campus Sustainability Council


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Water:

• The sustainability office aimed to ban bottled water on campus, following a student campaign in the fall of 2013 (Sustainability Plan)


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Water plan(s):

• The goal was achieved in August of 2014 when the last retail bottled water was removed.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Water plan(s):

• Sustainability Office
• Auxiliary Services
• Business Office
• Chartwells Dining Services


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance Diversity and Affordability:

• Grow the social capital on campus and in the region to a level that can adequately sustain system shocks and quickly recover from such shocks, including financial (e.g. economic recessions), natural (e.g. hurricanes), and social (e.g. suicide in the community). In order to accomplish this, a high level of trust and associations within the community is essential, including a robust culture of support for diversity and inclusion (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• A diversity and inclusion plan developed by the diversity committee and approved by Cabinet sets specific goals and outlines approaches (Diversity and Inclusion Plan)
• Decrease the gap between tuition costs and financial support enough so that outgoing students are not burdened by an unreasonable amount of debt and so that the College can continue attracting students from all socio-economic demographics regardless of need (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Decrease the gap between the highest paid and lowest paid employees to a level that is perceived by most to be equitable, while also allowing for competitive salaries to attract a highly talented workforce (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Grow total enrollment, the efficiency of revenues to expenses, total net assets, and the primary reserve ratio to a level that will sustain the institution indefinitely into the future and allow it to adequately prepare students to succeed in a world faced with multiple global crises (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Diversity and Affordability plan(s):

• General progress toward the diversity and inclusion goals will be measured by a social and human capital survey every two years. The first of these surveys was administered in the spring of 2014.
• Because inclusion is an abstract goal, it is difficult to know when a sufficient amount has been achieved. Therefore, the College aims to increase the general level of inclusion, as estimated in the survey, over time and keep a watchful eye on areas that are not as strong as others, so that strategies can be employed to address weaknesses.
• Diversity goals are to significantly exceed the diversity of Rutland county
• Each department at the College will be asked to develop a specific approach to increasing diversity and inclusion.
• A range of metrics on affordability are being collected on an annual basis by the Registrar's Office and summarized in the IR report. For a list of the metrics, see the financial capital section of the white paper, which can be found here: http://www.greenmtn.edu/sustainability-2020.aspx


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Diversity and Affordability plan(s):

• Registrar's Office
• Provost's Office
• Diversity Committee
• Health and Wellness Center
• Sustainability Office


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Health, Wellbeing and Work:

• Help every student, staff, and faculty member reach their full human potential on a personal and professional level in order to live a fulfilling life and assist the College in advancing institutional goals. This requires an adequate level of health and well-being, personal development (including skills and knowledge), and grit (persistence). (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Health, Wellbeing and Work plan(s):

• Progress toward health, well being and personal development will primarily be measured by the social and human capital survey every two years. The first of these surveys was administered in the spring of 2014. Because these are abstract goals, it is difficult to know when a sufficient amount has been achieved. Therefore, the College aims to increase the levels of these items over time and keep a watchful eye on areas that are not as strong as others, so that strategies can be employed to address weaknesses.
• The NSSE and SSI surveys will also provide data indicating the general level of wellbeing and personal development among students
• Survey questions that address these areas specifically include questions on physical health, mental health, grit, and personal development


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Health, Wellbeing and Work plan(s):

• Provost's Office
• Health and Wellness Center
• Sustainability Office


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in Investment:

• Divest the endowment from fossil fuels (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).
• Increase investments in holdings with a positive screen, such as Portfolio 21 through a forthcoming ESG or Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance framework (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan & CIR Plan).
• Continue to invest in energy efficiency projects through the green revolving loan fund until the full capacity of the fund is used (Sustainability Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the Investment plan(s):

• Divestment in fossil fuels is measured by the number of holdings in the endowment matching 350.org's list of the 200 largest fossil fuel accounts. In May, 2013, the Board of Trustees voted to divest from these holdings and that process has begun. GMC aims to complete it as soon as possible.
• The metric for investments in positive screens is the % of total investments invested in Portfolio 21 and additionally, the total investments that meet the ESG's criteria. Currently, 15% has been approved for this purpose and over time, the College aims to increase it.
• By 2015, GMC aims to reinvest the remainder of the $30,000 revolving loan fund in additional energy efficiency projects. The long-term objective is to constantly maximize the capability of this fund to invest in renewable energy projects with high returns.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the Investment plan(s):

• Sustainability Office
• Business Office
• Committee on Investment Responsibility


A brief description of the plan(s) to advance sustainability in other areas:

• Have a strong positive economic impact on the region through hiring, purchasing, job creation, and student-driven economic research and entrepreneurial projects (Sustainability 2020 Strategic Plan).


The measurable objectives, strategies and timeframes included in the other plan(s):

• Every two years, a class will estimate the regional impact the College has on hiring, purchasing, job creation, and entrepreneurialism. The objective is to increase these areas, but there are no specific targets yet.


Accountable parties, offices or departments for the other plan(s):

• Sustainable Business Faculty


The institution’s definition of sustainability:

Green Mountain College's institution-wide strategic plan, Sustainability 2020, calls for the College to achieve authentic sustainability by the year 2020. The most basic way to define authentic sustainability is to say that the College aims to have a net positive impact on the natural, financial, and social/human capital of its local and global communities. What follows is a narrative explaining the nuances of this definition and then the actual technical definition as it is articulated in the Sustainability 2020 Metrics white paper.

Narrative of the definition:

"Our starting point in defining sustainability is the well-known definition of sustainability by the Brundtland Commission: 'meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (WCED, 1987, p. 43). This definition requires us to leave the world better than we found it, or as we put it last year (GMC, 2012): 'To achieve authentic sustainability, we must begin to give more than we take in three areas: Natural Capital, Social/Human Capital and Financial Capital.' These capital stocks represent the resources humans have available at any given point in time to support a high quality of life within a healthy biosphere. Sustainability thus requires maintaining or growing these resources over time so that future generations have at least the same capability to thrive that we do.

This starting definition of sustainability is closely connected with the concept of human well-being, a subject of much research and debate. We have taken a comprehensive approach, incorporating both objective and subjective measures of well-being into our framework.

Before proposing an initial set of six to eight metrics in each of the capital areas, we attempt to define more carefully the notion of authentic sustainability. The fact that our GMC community does not (and should not) exist in a vacuum complicates the task of assessing our progress. We are embedded in unsustainable systems, which are largely beyond our control. These economic, social, and ecological systems constrain our options and limit our ability to achieve some ideals of sustainability. Our aim is to create a practical model for authentic sustainability which can serve as a guide to other communities and organizations. We believe global, social, and economic systems must undergo a profound paradigm shift. Since we cannot predict the dynamics of this shift, our assessment of Green Mountain’s sustainability will inevitably involve multiple uncertainties. To address such uncertainties requires a pragmatic approach: we can only judge our progress based on those outcomes we can control and understand. In defining authentic sustainability in this way, we can still hold ourselves to an objective criterion — creating more good than harm — while allowing for the possibility that outside events and unknown factors may cause global resource stocks to decline.

These considerations have helped us arrive at a more formal definition of authentic sustainability, but they also suggest that assessing our progress will, in the end, require judgment. We propose six guiding principles for our assessment and communication:
• Transparency
• Resilience
• Narrative credibility
• Social justice
• Engaged community
• Ongoing reassessment and improvement

We see achieving such an authentic sustainability not as an endpoint, but rather as a significant milestone on a continuing journey. Ultimately, for us to claim that we have achieved authentic sustainability, we will need to tell a compelling story with integrity. That story is a critical part of the closed-loop process we propose to assess our progress and guide our actions going forward."

Technical definition:

"A community C is authentically sustainable during a period t if and only if:
a. the stocks of natural, social, human, and financial capital within C’s control are increasing over t
b. continuing the activities of members of C for multiple generations beyond t will likely further maintain or increase each of these stocks, and
c. during t, C achieves a level of impact on each of these stocks such that if everyone had that impact during t, human society would have the capabilities to thrive for multiple human generations within the carrying capacity of the planet (all else being equal)."


Does the institution’s strategic plan or equivalent guiding document include sustainability at a high level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution’s strategic plan or equivalent guiding document addresses sustainability:

Sustainability is the primary focus of the institution's strategic plan called Sustainability 2020. The main objective of the strategic plan reads, "Through innovative education and research, Green Mountain College will achieve authentic sustainability by the end of this decade." All of the specific goals under this overarching goal are also sustainability-related. The plan is structured around five initiatives: building human and social capital, building natural capital, strengthening financial capital, creating adaptive systems and telling our sustainability story. Many of the goals described in this credit are from the strategic plan. Those that aren't directly from the plan are meant to support main objectives in the plan.


The website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability planning 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.