New Initiative Establishes Higher Goal: Carbon Neutral by 2016

The Middlebury Board of Trustees set a new carbon reduction goal for the College at its May 4, 2007 meeting: to become carbon neutral by 2016. The resolution challenges the entire College community to actively participate in efforts to achieve the new goal. The Trustees' resolution also states that the preferred approach to carbon neutrality be through a combination of energy conservation and efficiency, renewable fuel sources, technology innovation, educational programming and learning, and, as a last option, purchase of carbon offsets.

The Trustees also voted that Middlebury College become a signatory of the American College and University President's Climate Commitment.

The adoption of the carbon neutral goal is an important milestone in a process that began in 2004 when the College set its first goal of reducing its climate warming emissions to 8% below 1990 levels by 2012. That goal was established after a Carbon Reduction Task Group consisting of students, faculty and staff developed a comprehensive strategy and a portfolio of carbon reduction actions to achieve the goal. Many of those actions were implemented including a decision to go forward with the construction of a heating and cooling system powered by woodchips - a local, renewable, carbon neutral fuel.

The Trustees approved financing for the biomass system in October, 2006. It is expected to be online by Fall, 2008. When it goes online it will cut in half the College's use of two million gallons of #6 fuel oil per year and put it very close to achieving its initial carbon reduction goal of 8% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Following up quickly on that decision, students proposed to the Trustees that the College establish a new goal of carbon neutrality by 2016. They pointed to new evidence by climate scientists that impacts from climate warming are proceeding at unprecedented rates. They also pointed to Middlebury's role as an early leader among colleges and universities and the need to move boldly toward solutions to this great challenge of our time.

The Trustees responded by asking the students to work with faculty and staff to develop a new strategy and recommendations for how carbon neutrality could be achieved. The students formed MiddShift and developed an initial report which they presented to the Trustees in February, 2007. The Trustees responded positively to the report and asked the College Vice President and Treasurer to form a Carbon Neutrality Advisory Group to analyze the risks associated with a carbon neutrality goal and to provide recommendations about how to manage them.

A team of students, staff and faculty was formed and they worked diligently and quickly to prepare such an analysis. They completed their work in time for the Trustees May, 2007 meeting and made the recommendation to go forward with the carbon neutrality goal to which the Trustees responded favorably.

The College is in the process of forming a Steering Committee and Working teams of students, staff and faculty to oversee and implement the carbon neutrality goal.

Press Release: Middlebury College Commits to Becoming Carbon Neutral by 2016, May 5, 2007

Link to New England Cable News Feature on Middlebury College Carbon Neutral Commitment

Link to description of Middlebury College's carbon dioxide early reduction efforts