by Jesse Pyles, Sustainability Coordinator, Unity College

Unity College in Unity, Maine is organizing its efforts according to President Mitchell Thomashow’s Nine Elements of a Sustainable Culture – as highlighted in Kyoto Publishing’s Climate Neutral Campus Report.  We’re proud to be a part of a statewide culture in higher education that values sustainability.  In fact, 75% of the college students in Maine are enrolled at ACUPCC signatory institutions (compared to 33% nationally).

At a recent retreat of the Maine Higher Education Council, presidents from around the state focused on sustainability leadership.  Maine’s 33 higher education institutions can operate as a pretty close bunch, engaging in consortia and sharing information and resources in a way that might prove difficult for college networks in other regions.  With the support of Maine’s campus executives, we’re uniquely poised to take a leadership role in the broader sustainability conversation.

Campus sustainability achievements from around Maine are highlighted here under each of President Thomashow’s Nine Elements, which fall under three headings: InfrastructureCommunity, and Learning.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Energy – Completed in 2008, the Unity House at Unity College is a LEED Platinum residence for Mitch and Cindy Thomashow.  The 1,930-square-foot, net-zero home produced more electricity than it used last year, and is complete with a five-kilowatt photovoltaic system, solar hot water, and a cold climate heat pump.

Unity House at Unity College

Unity House at Unity College

Food – In 2008, 20% of Colby College’s (Waterville, ME) food budget was spent on local and/or organic food and supplies.  These purchases supported 72 local suppliers.

Materials – At Bates College (Lewiston, ME), the annual Clean Sweep end-of-year move out swap brings more than 1000 shoppers from campus and the surrounding community.  Nearly $12,000 was raised in 2008 by the event and donated to seventeen area non-profits.

COMMUNITY

Governance – The President’s Council for Environmental Sustainability at theUniversity of Maine at Augusta has led a truly collaborative climate action planning process with members from throughout the institution – including students, faculty, vice presidents, and department directors.

Investment – Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset nearly all of its emissions from electricity – currently from the Mars Hill wind project in northern Maine and the low impact Worumbo hydropower facility in nearby Lisbon Falls.

Wellness – The University of New England’s (Biddeford, ME) “Free Bike” program for freshman students provides bikes, helmets, and locks to entering students.  Part of a broader transportation initiative for the campus, the bicycles were issued “for keeps” to resident students agreeing to leave their cars at home.

LEARNING

Curriculum – Kennebec Valley Community College (Fairfield, ME) offers employment-focused training in alternative energy installation and design in its Energy Technology program, an offering to be bolstered this year by the addition of a campus wind turbine.

Aesthetics – At College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME) a building slated for destruction was salvaged and renovated to preserve the campus ambience of seaside cottages.  The 8,900-square-foot Deering Common student center, previously a family summer home, is now heated by wood pellets secured from Maine suppliers.

Interpretation – The University of Maine at Farmington’s LEED Silver Education Center, opened in January 2007, was designed as an educational resource for the region, offering public tours to highlight such sustainability components as its geothermal heating and cooling system and non-toxic building materials.