Capping an 11-year effort, 2013 was a landmark year for Colby College’s sustainability initiatives as the campus achieved carbon neutrality. Colby became the 4th and largest institution in the country to reach this distinction. Careful planning by the college’s Environmental Advisory Group (EAG), a group of volunteers comprised of administration, faculty, and students, implemented a number of critical programs and policies to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint. From the purchase of Green-e certified electricity and continued campus conservation programs to the construction of a new district steam plant powered by sustainably harvested biomass; the campus reduced its emissions over this 11-year time period by approximately 70%, and realized an 8% reduction since 2012. Carbon offsets were purchased in 2013 for the remaining scope 1 and scope 3 emissions. Further, the volunteer-based EAG formalized its sustainability mission, and hired its first sustainability coordinator and created the Office of Sustainability in May 2013.
Beyond emissions, Colby has achieved significant energy reductions since 2002. Despite over 120,000 SF of campus growth in the last 11 years, the College consumed less total energy in 2013 than 2002. Since 2002, the College has reduced its energy consumption per square foot by 12%, and 2% since 2012, after accounting for weather variance.The most notable conservation project this year was the replacement of the hockey arena lighting with an LED alternative. Its benefits include reduced electric consumption, improved light quality, reduction in ongoing maintenance, and reduced cooling needs. Further, any new construction or significant commercial interiors project pursues LEED certification at a minimum Silver Level. To date, 11% of Colby’s square footage is LEED- certified and 1:6 students, staff, or faculty, works in a LEED-certified space. The College is currently in the process of developing comprehensive Green Building Standards and an Energy Management Plan to further energy efficiency and building performance for campus projects.
Co-curricular environmental programming has used student interest to evaluate, research, and enact a number of campus sustainability initiatives. A combination of academic coursework and partnerships between the administration and faculty has produced various independent projects and honors theses in order to promote understanding and awareness of sustainability and climate change issues. A prime example of this is in 2008, a senior thesis by Jamie O’Connell served as the basis for the College’s Climate Action Plan. Other recent examples include a range of feasibility studies evaluating renewable energy technologies and even ways to ‘green’ graduation activities. There are a number of activities outside of the classroom for students to learn more about environmentalism. For instance, this year an Eco-Rep program of 11 environmental leaders was started by the Office of Sustainability aimed to promote peer to peer education on sustainable living habits and resource reduction in residence halls. Other preparedness efforts have students engaging in activities beyond Colby. Students have attended a Climate Adaptation Conference for the local watershed, were sponsored to attend the annual Powershift Conference in Pennsylvania, and will attend a Student Environmental Leadership Summit in Portland, Maine, in order to share best practices with peer institutions. These activities also extend to study abroad opportunities and will continue in order to draw parallels between academic coursework and real-world applications.