Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.92
Liaison Christina Goodwin
Submission Date March 5, 2021
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Sterling College (VT)
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.25 / 4.00 Favor Ellis
Dean of Community
Residence Life
"---" 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:

Sterling College's ten-year Strategic Initiative was adopted in April 2019 and consists of five commitments. While each of the five commitment areas have sustainability components, Commitment V is perhaps the single commitment addressing sustainability in its entirity.

Commitment V: Develop an organizational model that promotes ecological, social, and financial sustainability.

-Fulfill our vision of anti-racism and anti-bias in our organization, governance, and use of resources.
-Further develop and commit to an organizational culture of sustainability and institutional improvement based on regular assessment, community governance, and input from all stakeholders.
-Establish a plan for the diversification of sources of revenue that strengthen our capacity to meet our mission and to become an increasingly affordable educational opportunity for students, including increasing the endowment and developing self-sustaining enterprises.
-Complete a comprehensive study and implement a plan to ensure efficient ecological use of all operational and capital resources, including a transformation of energy systems.
-Support our historic place in Craftsbury Common by working to improve facilities and the beauty of our property and the village.


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)? :
Yes

A copy of the sustainability plan:
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)? :
No

A copy of the climate action plan:
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The website URL where the climate action plan is publicly available:
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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):

A campus master plan is available upon request. It covers facilities and renovations, including the planned sustainable renovations.

Juneteenth Commitments can be found here: https://sterlingcollege.edu/blog/juneteenth-part-i/

A hardcopy of Sterling's Environmental, Social, and Governance Investment Criteria regarding its endowment is available upon request. Full text copied into the Investment and Finance Section below.


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:

Sample from Strategic Initiative:

Commitment I: Provide effective transdisciplinary, experiential, competency-assessed educational programs that meet student aspirations.

-Create and sustain educational programs that are anti-racist, anti-biased, and that promote equality and justice.
-Support transdisciplinary educational programs that integrate learning and support faculty creativity.
-Adopt a competency-based assessment model for learning achieved through study and work.
-Establish a calendar and schedule designed to best support faculty, experiential learning, and community wellbeing.
-Investigate delivering cohort-based, transdisciplinary, competency-based educational programs through undergraduate, graduate, online, and professional study and work, as well as personal growth learning experiences.

Curriculum outcomes are measured using Course Evaluations that are completed for every class offered by Sterling and analyzed by the Academic Office.


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:

Sample from Self Sufficiency Plan:

The land is ideally suited for grass farming and a diversity of livestock: beef cattle, sheep, draft animals, and pasture poultry, a combination that provides the most potential for farm income. The farm has 50 acres of woodland that would benefit from a “worst-first” management plan that would provide lumber, a small annual income to the farm, provide a classroom to students, and improve the health of the woods at the same time. The use of draft animals would provide a low-cost source of power and require a community of teamsters that could be provided by students as they become able.

The farm will also serve as a research and community education demonstration farm for The Berry Center’s Our Home Place Meat program. OHPM focuses on good pasture management through ruminant and small livestock production as well as on the development of viable, cooperative, alternative markets. WBFP students learn about and participate in this program through the curriculum, Work Program, and on-farm research.

Research initiatives outlined or mentioned in the Self-sufficiency Plan:
- Move away from industrial breeds and toward heritage breeds - research on sheep breeds and cattle breeds
- Feasibility research into sheep genetics and markets for OHPM (in regards to food & energy sovereignty)
- OHPM research: genetics, forages, hay (in regards to community food security)


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:

Sample from Self-Sufficiency Plan:

Curricular Connections

[Form a student team to renovate campus buildings to improve environmental standards]
Spring semester 2021 will hopefully allow the start of training a student crew in building renovation for thermal efficiency in coordination with the Renewable Energy Analysis and Design class. All the campus buildings are brought up to high standards, then a well trained crew could eventually help local homeowners with energy efficiency improvements.

What do we need to move forward:
Build in an emotional charge to our proposition: address the emotional toll of Covid on our community, engaging in dialogue with staff and faculty, to create productive dialogue with our students - how to be a model of resilience not just from an operational system, but from a socially dynamic frame.


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:

Sample from the Strategic Initiative:

Commitment IV: Promote our mission and vision through collaborative relationships and partnerships.

-Develop partnerships with organizations that commit to anti-racism and anti-bias that promote equality and justice.
-Use the partnership model with The Berry Center to inspire further initiatives with other organizations.
-Develop partnerships that support onsite and online visiting students and faculty from other organizations.
-Increasingly engage in public presentations and professional work through relationships and partnerships.
-Expand public knowledge of our mission and vision through collaborative relationships and partnerships.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate?:
No

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

Sample from the Self Sufficiency Plan:

Building Infrastructure/Reduce Heat Loss [plans]

-Add insulation and air seal existing buildings
-Dunbar uses the most heating oil - almost 5,000 gallons/year
-Replace door on the side wall by coffee/tea area.
-Use student labor in conjunction with maintenance staff and or professional contractors. (Best if crew is linked to a class that complements learning like Renewable Energy Analysis and Design)
-Bring walls up to R-40+, Ceiling R-60+,
-Some doors and windows need improvement too.
-Floor insulation R5 to R10
-Find the opportunities while other renovations are happening (Simpson) or furnaces being replaced (Rural Arts building)
-Replace any electric resistance heating with air source heat pumps (South House?)
-Install Heat recovery ventilation in all buildings.
-Expand solar hot water heating to Kestrel


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:

Sample from Self Sufficiency Plan:

Improving thermal insulation and air sealing in campus buildings will bring long term and continuous reductions in fuel use and heating costs. A well insulated building also creates a more comfortable living environment and resilience in the face of occasional loss of electricity. Getting the buildings super-insulated is important before trying to heat a leaky building with wood because a negative carbon balance, lower air pollution, and careful land stewardship are the goals.

Complete a comprehensive study and implement a plan to ensure efficient ecological use of all operational and capital resources, including a transformation of energy systems.


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:

Sample from Self Sufficiency Plan:

Our farm has a long history of serving as a critical source for institutional food security. By our last assessment as participants in the Real Food Challenge, the Sterling College Farm produces around 30% of all the food we consume. Through several concerted efforts described in this report and listed in Appendix A, we are striving to increase this percentage while also transitioning some of our systems to embody the values of “non-violent” and “biodiverse” food, farming, and forestry paradigms. Guided by these principals, in 3-5 years we would like to increase our overall food production capacity to around 50%, while also expanding community-oriented functions. In 5-10 years, we would like to see increases beyond 50%. Similarly, we hope to increase our energy independence and efficiency. These goals cannot be achieved, however, if we are not appropriately resourced. As it currently stands, we are functioning near our maximum production capacity. To make these goals realizable, we need investments in both capital and human resources that increase our capacity and efficiency. This will include a redesign of the work program that will not only provide needed additional resources but also a more fulfilling student experience that is more closely linked to the curriculum, emphasizes skills building and better aligns with student career aspirations. If adequately resourced, we are confident that the Sterling College land base can serve as both an institutional and community hub for increased local food security and sovereignty. It is the hope of this task force that the current report will serve as a baseline for these efforts.


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:

Sample from Self Sufficiency Plan:

Curricular Intersection
-Reduce student travel off campus by providing additional on-campus opportunities for recreation.
-Permaculture design plans for all campus buildings and grounds
-“Food not lawns” perennial production
-This group could develop a map of priority sites (Charlotte’s suggestion)
-Integrated Farming Practicum
-Community Food Action

Forest
-Lumber - Choosing some of the best logs for building materials is feasible, including hiring in a portable sawmill when needed to make lumber.
-Fence posts, sawlogs, round logs for rough construction.
-Firewood - Not much way to use this on campus right now. Sugarhouse is the main user.
-Capacity for moving the logs and wood to the landing is limited.
-Cutting wood for sale with paid student labor, is a money loser. But selling some leftover wood is better than letting it rot.
-Some firewood could be used to “pay” employees who want or need it.


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:

Sample from Juneteenth Commitments:

In partnership between Equity Council and the Finance Office, Sterling will make the commitment to increase our purchasing from Black-Owned businesses, and other vendor options that support equity and inclusion.


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:

Sample from Self Sufficiency Plan:

Transportation [currently]-
Hybrid Wellness car + 3 gas vans + gas truck + tractor + Draft animals

Transportation Resources to get within the next year (in Appendix B):
-New Van for Instruction (best mileage) -> Savings: reduce oil use
-Smaller vehicle for small class or teams. -> Savings: reduce fuel use
-Electrical vehicle and charging station lets us use a resource we create on campus. -> Savings: community development, reduce fuel use
-Better ride sharing coordination. Both for students and employees. On-line maybe? -> Savings: reduce fuel use, reduce parking spaces needed/used
-Build covered bike sheds to encourage bike use on campus, and to and from campus. -> Savings: reduce car use

The Self-sufficiency plan outlines these savings.

Sample from Appendix A in regards to Food & Energy Sovereignty:
- Improve efficiency of tillage, cultivation, and handling (field
equipment, washing, transportation, and storage)


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste?:
No

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste and the published plans in which each objective is included:
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Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Water?:
No

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

Samples from Strategic Initiative:

-Create and sustain educational programs that are anti-racist, anti-biased, and that promote equality and justice.
-Recruit an increasingly diverse leadership, faculty, and staff while preparing all employees to work to ensure that all programs and institutional practices are inclusive and promote equality and justice.
-Merit a reputation as an anti-racist and anti-bias institution focused on promoting equality and justice.
-Fulfill the aim of affordable education by moving towards debt-free programs for residential students and overall reduction in reliance on tuition to fund operations.
-Develop partnerships with organizations that commit to anti-racism and anti-bias that promote equality and justice.
-Fulfill our vision of anti-racism and anti-bias in our organization, governance, and use of resources.
-Diversification of sources of revenue that strengthen our capacity to meet our mission and to become an increasingly affordable educational opportunity for students, including increasing the endowment and developing self-sustaining enterprises.


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:

From the Strategic Initiative:

Commitment V (excerpt)
Develop an organizational model that promotes ecological, social, and financial sustainability.

- Establish a plan for the diversification of sources of revenue that strengthen our capacity to meet our mission and to become an increasingly affordable educational opportunity for students, including increasing the endowment and developing self-sustaining enterprises.
- Complete a comprehensive study and implement a plan to ensure efficient ecological use of all operational and capital resources, including a transformation of energy systems.

STERLING COLLEGE ENDOWMENT ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, AND GOVERNANCE INVESTMENT CRITERIA

Sterling College’s mission includes a commitment to ecological thinking and action and the College has committed to become an anti-racist institution. It is critical that the Endowment’s investments and investment management practices reflect these values.

Investment managers will avoid investing Sterling’s endowment and cash reserves in companies with material involvement in the following:
• Fossil fuel extraction, exploration, production, and refining
• Production of electric power generated primarily by fossil fuels or nuclear fuels
• Conventional or nuclear weapons and their support systems
• Manufacture or sale of firearms for civilian use
• Privatized operation of prisons
• Animal testing, beyond legal requirements
• Factory farming
• Tobacco, tobacco products, and e-cigarettes
• Agricultural biotechnology
• Activities that provide strategic support to repressive regimes (e.g., Myanmar and North Korea)
Investment managers will seek to invest in corporations and organizations with the following characteristics:
• Public, comprehensive reporting on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance
• Beneficial products or services, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, renewable energy, and
regenerative agriculture
• Strong policies and practices to address climate change, such as greenhouse gas emissions reduction
targets and extensive use of renewable energy
• Proportional representation of women and minorities on the board and top management
• Disclosure of workforce diversity (EEO-1 form)
• Strong supplier diversity programs
• Progressive employment policies (e.g. generous retirement benefits, employee stock‐ownership plans,
same‐sex domestic-partner benefits, on‐site childcare, liberal parental leave)
• Express policies and practices ensuring full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
employees
• Strong affirmative action programs and demonstrated achievements in advancing women and people of
color in management and in fields in which they are underrepresented
• Respect for workers’ freedom to organize and freedom of association
• Consistent application of best environmental, labor, and human rights practices globally, even where
local or national laws are less stringent
• Commitment to free, prior, and informed consent when conducting business on indigenous land,
following the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
• Policies to discourage child labor or other grossly exploitative labor practices in the provision of
services and the manufacture and sourcing of products
• Strong board oversight of ESG policies and performance


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:

Commitment II: Attract, develop, and retain an exceptional and increasingly diverse faculty and staff.

-Recruit an increasingly diverse leadership, faculty, and staff while preparing all employees to work to ensure that all programs and institutional practices are inclusive and promote equality and justice.
-Take an equitable and comprehensive approach to human resources that supports effective operation of the College.
-Provide highly competitive compensation and benefits that support employees at all stages of professional life.
-Increase opportunities for teaching field study courses, conducting scholarly work, and professional development.
-Expand and enrich the employee experience through educational programs that regularly engage with a diverse assortment of speakers, field practitioners, and distinguished visiting faculty.

Commitment III: Extend the reach and impact of our mission by attracting and retaining an exceptional and increasingly diverse and underserved student population.

-Merit a reputation as an anti-racist and anti-bias institution focused on promoting equality and justice.
-Fulfill the aim of affordable education by moving towards debt-free programs for residential students and overall reduction in reliance on tuition to fund operations.
-Promote a cohesive and engaged community of students at all locations by strengthening educational, governance, community, and wellness programming to holistically support students.
-Develop a pre- and post-graduate advising program led by faculty, and supported by alumni, that supports a holistic and seamless approach to post-study opportunity.
-Develop and invest in a comprehensive identity, marketing, and recruitment plan that accurately reflects the institution and supports meeting these commitments.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas (e.g. arts and culture or technology)?:
No

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

Sterling College using education as a force to advance ecological thinking and action through affordable experiential learning that prepares people to be knowledgeable, skilled, and responsible leaders in the communities in which they live.

VISION STATEMENT
Sterling uses education as a force to address critical ecological problems caused by unlimited growth and consumption that is destroying the planet as we have known it, such as:

-Fossil fuel dependence and rapid climate change.
-Destruction of biodiversity and loss of wild places.
-Promotion of harmful agricultural practices that threaten human and natural communities.
-Persistence of structural oppression that impacts human and ecological wellbeing.
-Deterioration of civil society through estrangement from community, nature, and place.


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

Sustainability at Sterling goes well beyond conventional practices; the reality of living and learning on our rural Vermont campus cultivates a deep sense of community based on an intimate relationship with the natural world, making “sustainability” both a way of life and a path of study.

The campus community has a shared vision for appropriately scaled and regionally suitable sustainable living practices—what we like to call “grassroots sustainability.”


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 No
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:
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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.