Agnes Scott College

Sustainability is a major focus in Agnes Scott College’s mission – the value was infused in the school’s curriculum (with programs such as their Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor), and demonstrated by eco-themed houses that teach students how to live more eco-consciously. However, participation in sustainability practices is not limited to students. Agnes Scott has partnered with multiple organizations and the city of Decatur, sharing information about greenhouse gas inventories, Climate Action Plans, tree protection strategies, and LEED standards. The effort and success of Agnes Scott send a message to other small colleges in the region that they can be climate leaders too.

Student Preparedness           

Agnes Scott’s commitment to sustainability is rooted in their mission to “educate women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.” Since joining the ACUPCC as a charter signatory, the college has prepared students for climate leadership by incorporating sustainability across the curriculum and into campus policies and practices. Environmental Residents on every hall serve as peer educators, supporting energy and water efficiency and waste reduction. Students can also live in a dedicated Eco-House.

The college offers an interdisciplinary minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESS). Students take ESS101 and then choose between courses on a range of topics including environmental health, food systems, and sustainability leadership and communications. Summer workshops are offered to help faculty across the curriculum incorporate sustainability into their courses. All ESS minors complete an internship at sites across metro Atlanta or on campus.

The Sustainability Office’s interns and work-study staff play key roles in Agnes Scott’s response to climate change. Projects include the greenhouse gas inventory and Climate Action Plan, a tree protection plan, research on carbon sequestration, and the Green Revolving Fund. Students also serve as tour guides to interpret LEED certified buildings on campus.

Beyond campus, students speak regularly at local and national conferences, and a senior was recently quoted in the New York Times Innovators column. Recent graduates have gone on to careers in sustainability working for organizations such as the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, Federal Reserve Bank, City of Atlanta and University of Colorado.

Climate Innovation

Since 2008 Agnes Scott and the City of Decatur have forged an innovative public-private partnership to address climate change. The city helps fund a Sustainability Fellowship for a recent graduate who supports sustainability efforts by both partners. This has resulted in information sharing about greenhouse gas inventories, Climate Action Plans, tree protection strategies, and LEED standards. The college also helped manage a neighborhood energy reduction competition. Plans are underway this summer to create a shared Energy Manager position.

Agnes Scott also partnered with Oak Ridge National Labs and Southface Energy Institute on a pilot program to weatherize five college-owned residences. Expanding this effort, the college now has 12 weatherized houses that serve as models of efficiency at the residential scale.

Committed to being “the little engine that could” of sustainability, Agnes Scott has achieved several milestones. They opened the first LEED-certified building in Decatur and implemented single-stream recycling and composting, taking waste diversion rates from 24% in 2008 to 75% in 2012. Agnes Scott College is a national pioneer in creating Green Revolving Funds through donor support, and was the only non-profit in Georgia to install a solar array through Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative.

To promote the message that small colleges can be climate leaders, Agnes Scott hosts an Annual Energy Open House, drawing community leaders from across the region. One college that attended the recent open house is already pursuing a GRF and an investor funded solar array. Agnes Scott’s staff and students present frequently at ACUPCC, USGBC, NACUBO and AASHE.

Creating Opportunity

Agnes Scott has pioneered creative approaches to financing efficiency and renewable energy and helped secure state policy support for small-scale solar energy projects.

A trailblazer in creating Green Revolving Funds (GRF) through donor support, Agnes Scott raised $500,000 for their GRF, one of the first at a small college, especially in the Southeast. Seven projects have been completed with an estimated ROI of nearly 30%. Agnes Scott’s GRF is also notable for the engagement of faculty, staff and students in its design and implementation.

Donor support also made possible a hybrid geothermal HVAC system on Campbell Hall, a vacant 50,000 square foot building renovated to LEED Gold standards that earned a 2015 Sustainable Preservation Award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Purchased electricity has remained nearly constant this year despite the additional 50,000 square feet.

Agnes Scott’s most ambitious effort to date is the installation of a quarter megawatt of solar on campus, the largest at a nonprofit in Georgia. In 2014, the college became the only nonprofit to install an array through Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative. In 2015, four more arrays were added. Four arrays are funded by private investors and one through the GRF. The college retains the RECs on all five. One is a first-of-its-kind Quad Pod canopy, developed by Georgia Tech and brought to market by Quest Renewables. Agnes Scott’s success with these projects played a key role in the Public Service Commission’s decision this spring to retain support for small-scale solar projects in Georgia.