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Colby College Achieves Carbon Neutrality

Colby College has achieved carbon neutrality, two years before its target date.

The small Waterville, Maine school says it achieved neutrality by switching to 100-percent renewable electricity starting in 2003 and using sustainably harvested wood biomass instead of oil as its primary fuel for heat and hot water beginning in 2012.

Beyond those major initiatives, Colby College reduced its carbon emissions by:

  • Increasing energy efficiency and lowering temperatures in buildings.
  • Achieving LEED certification of all new construction and major renovations. Since 2005, Colby has earned LEED certification (including two silver and five gold) on eight projects and has five more projects registered.
  • Using geothermal heating and cooling in two new buildings.
  • Composting, recycling and reducing waste.

A small portion of Colby’s savings on energy costs goes toward the purchase of carbon offsets to cover emissions such as college-related travel and commuting. The money from those offsets will help to build and sustain a market for projects in New England that directly affect the impact of human activity on climate change, the school says.

In 2008 Colby President William D. Adams signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Colby has since followed the best practices of the ACUPCC and used methodology and industry standards established by Clean Air-Cool Planet to measure and reduce emissions, Adams says.

According to David Hales, president of Second Nature, the support organization of the ACUPCC, Colby is the fourth signatory of the ACUPCC to achieve carbon neutrality and the largest institution to reach that milestone.

The school says it will continue reducing emissions through additional energy-efficiency projects and education encouraging behavior changes.

Colby won the national championship in last year’s first-ever Environmental March Madness tournament, a competition to find the most sustainable college or university in the country.

This year, Colorado State University, George Mason University, Ohio State University and University of Washington have advanced to the “Finest Four” round of the Environmental March Madness tournament. One of the four will be named national champion on April 9.


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