Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 81.82
Liaison Ryan Ihrke
Submission Date Feb. 23, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Green Mountain College
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

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

Does the institution have a published strategic plan or equivalent guiding document that includes 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.


A copy of the strategic plan:
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The website URL where the strategic plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have a published sustainability plan (apart from what is reported above)? :
No

A copy of the sustainability plan:
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The website URL where the sustainability plan is publicly available:
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Does the institution have a published climate action plan (apart from what is reported above)? :
Yes

A copy of the climate action plan:
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The website URL where the climate action plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have other published plans that address sustainability or include measurable sustainability objectives (e.g. campus master plan, physical campus plan, diversity plan, human resources plan)? :
Yes

A list of other published plans that address sustainability, including public website URLs (if available):
Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Curriculum?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Curriculum and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Develop marketable undergraduate and graduate programs in human health and quality of life by 2020 and integrate the new emphasis into the general education curriculum.(Strategic Plan)
• Develop short courses in sustainability skills for non-matriculated students by the year 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Increase in the number and quality of sustainability skills intensive courses offered by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Integrate the acquisition of practical skills into all majors BY 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Ensure all students understand and engage the global context in which we operate BY 2020. (Strategic Plan)
• Further develop environmental programs with a national reputation for producing graduates for jobs in a sustainable economy. Strengthen current programs and build distinctive new programs.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Research?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Research and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• By 2020, develop one or more centers that attract funding, conduct research, and generate revenue, e.g. a center that provides support programs for budding sustainability entrepreneurs.(Strategic Plan)
• Develop clear measures for our social, environmental, and financial impacts and a process for assessing our progress towards sustainability by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• 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. (Strategic Plan)
• 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. (Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Campus Engagement and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Participation in Green Job Corps will be measured by number of departments that participate, with the goal of having all departments participate by the year 2020. (Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Develop clear measures for our social, environmental, and financial impacts and a process for assessing our progress towards sustainability by 2020.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Public Engagement?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Public Engagement and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• 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. (Strategic Plan)

• Implement programs that improve human health and quality of life on campus and in nearby communities by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Strengthen college/community partnerships to enhance the vibrancy of the local communities by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Develop short courses in sustainability skills for non-matriculated students by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Establish an active presence in Poultney and southern Vermont.(Strategic Plan)
• Increase the capacity to provide environmental expertise and research to surrounding communities.(Strategic Plan)
• Enhance natural capital in the region, e.g. through ecological restoration, community energy, or waste diversion projects. (Strategic Plan)
• By 2020 develop clear measures for our social, environmental, and financial impacts and a process for assessing our progress towards sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Develop an international reputation as a leading innovator in the study and practice of sustainability in higher education. (Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• 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). (Climate Action Plan)
• 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.(Climate Action Plan)
• The long-term objective by 2050, is to have a climate neutral campus fleet and to reduce emissions from air travel by 80 percent.(Climate Action Plan)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Buildings?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Buildings and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• 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. Now that the goal of 85% heat load has been achieved, the College aims to increase the biomass heat load to as close to 100% as possible. (Strategic Plan)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• The value of capital building stock on campus will be monitored by tracking investments in maintenance projects versus the rate of depreciation.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Energy?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Energy and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Meet the College’s energy needs with 100% renewable energy by 2020.(Strategic Plan)
• Reducing fossil fuel use at a rate less than or equal to the global production curve for renewables. (Strategic Plan)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Food & Dining?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Food & Dining and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• The College will strive to ensure by 2020, that all poultry and pork served in the dining
hall will be humanely-sourced from humane -certified vendors. Beef will also be purchased from humane -certified vendors whenever financially feasible and available.
Additionally, GMC will move to convert 40% of food purchasing to local and community
based and/or sustainably certified vendors(Sustainable Purchasing Policy)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Grounds?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Grounds and the published plans in which each objective is included:


• Every two years, natural area assessments will be carried out by classes on campus to gauge the health of the ecosystem in terms of habitat, species richness, and species diversity. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Additionally, the impact the College has on regional biodiversity and ecosystem health will be assessed by classes every two years. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)
• Enhance natural capital in the region, e.g. through ecological restoration, community energy, or waste diversion projects. (Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Purchasing?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Purchasing and the published plans in which each objective is included:


• Purchasing assessments will take place every two years through quantitative classes such as quantitative environmental assessment.(Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Capture efforts that reduce GMC's impacts by reducing our overall consumption and
by seeking out suppliers who are similarly seeking to reduce their impacts. Measured impacts are to encompass: fossil energy use, particulate air pollution, hazardous waste production, toxic releases into water and air, water withdrawals, and land use.(Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Transportation?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Transportation and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Improve in the GMC fleet fuel efficiency and the implementation of a transportation demand management system will reduce emissions related to transportation.(Climate Action Plan)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Exceed an annual waste diversion rate of 50% by the year 2020(percentage referring to total waste generated). (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• For electronic waste and zero-sort waste, we aim for a 99% diversion rate by 2020. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Reduce our net waste to zero tons through a combination of our diversion rate of 50% of all on-site campus wastes plus offsets purchased. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)
• Enhance natural capital in the region, e.g. through ecological restoration, community energy, or waste diversion projects. (Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Water?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Water and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Neither the College nor any vendors may sell bottled water on the Poultney campus (Sustainable Purchasing Policy).
• Develop a series of innovative projects that enables Green Mountain College to have a net positive impact on the environment.(Strategic Plan)
• Reduce waste, pollution, toxics and other negative environmental impacts from the College’s operations.(Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Diversity & Affordability?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Diversity & Affordability and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Strengthen the culture of inclusion and diversity in the curriculum and the College culture.(Strategic Plan)
• Improve student success and retention/graduation rates by strengthening the first year experience, differentiated instruction, and the advising system.(Strategic Plan)
• Increase affordability in order to make the College more accessible to a greater population of prospective students. (Strategic Plan)
• Assess the total cost for a student to attend Green Mountain College compared with the total average amount of financial support available per student. The goal is to achieve a narrow enough gap between the two so that enough students are attracted and retained to enable the College to accomplish its mission.(Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• General progress toward the diversity and inclusion goals will be measured by a social and human capital survey every two years. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Track the amount of need demonstrated through submission of the FASFA and the
average percentage of need met through institutional grants, Pell grants, SEOG, and work study. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Investment & Finance and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Develop one or more centers that attract funding, conduct research, and generate revenue, e.g. a center that provides support programs for budding sustainability entrepreneurs.(Strategic Plan)
• Construct new facilities or systems needed to support enrollment growth, academic programs and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Develop clear measures for our social, environmental, and financial impacts and a process for assessing our progress towards sustainability.(Strategic Plan)

• 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 this process has been completed.
• 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.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Wellbeing & Work and the published plans in which each objective is included:

• Improve faculty and staff compensation.(Strategic Plan)
• The lowest paid employees are paid enough to live decent lives., and compensation is
allocated fairly. Multiple variables affect the fairness of the distribution of compensatio
n including need, merit, equity, and market rates. The College aims to balance these variables, and thereby to approach market rates for compensation given our rural location, while minimizing the gap between the compensation of those at the top and the bottom. (Sustainabilty 2020 Metrics Document)
• Implement programs that improve human health and quality of life on campus. (Strategic Plan)
• Invest in employee professional development.(Strategic Plan)
• Renovate living, learning, and work spaces to enhance comfort, aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability.(Strategic Plan)
• Progress toward health, well being and personal development will primarily be measured by the social and human capital survey every two years. (Sustainability 2020 Metrics Framework)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas (e.g. arts and culture or technology)?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas and the published plans in which each objective is included:

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


Does the institution have a formal statement in support of sustainability endorsed by its governing body (e.g. a mission statement that specifically includes sustainability and is endorsed by the Board of Trustees)? :
Yes

The formal statement in support of sustainability:

Green Mountain's mission statement reads as follows:
“Green Mountain College prepares students for fulfilling lives by taking the goal of creating just and sustainable societies as the unifying theme for its interdisciplinary graduate and undergraduate liberal arts education. The College fosters the ideals of environmental and personal responsibility, civic engagement, entrepreneurial spirit, and global understanding.”


The institution’s definition of sustainability (e.g. as included in a published statement or plan):

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)."


Is the institution an endorser or signatory of the following? :
Yes or No
The Earth Charter No
The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) No
ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter No
Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment (formerly known as the ACUPCC), Resilience Commitment, and/or integrated Climate Commitment Yes
The Talloires Declaration (TD) No
UN Global Compact No
Other multi-dimensional sustainability commitments (please specify below) No

A brief description of the institution’s formal sustainability commitments, including the specific initiatives selected above:
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The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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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.