Colby College was honored in Boston Thursday with an Environmental Merit Award from the New England Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The award recognizes exceptional work and commitment to the environment in 2003. “Colby College is ‘walking-the-talk’ when it comes to combining strong academic environmental programs with tangible actions to reduce the environmental impact of its campus operations,” the agency said in a press release.

“EPA’s Environmental Merit Award is an annual award that recognizes outstanding environmental advocates who have made significant contributions toward preserving and protecting our natural resources,” according to a letter from EPA Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney to the college. Eleven people or organizations in Maine received Environmental Merit Awards Thursday (see list).

Professors Russ Cole and Tom Tietenberg, directors of the environmental science and environmental studies programs respectively, and Director of Safety Bruce McDougal went to Faneuil Hall in Boston on Thursday for the presentation, but college officials credited a broad effort on campus by students, faculty and administrators for this latest recognition that Colby has received for its commitment to sustainability both in campus practices and in its outstanding environmental studies programs.

Mitchell Family Professor of Economics Thomas Tietenberg, director of Colby’s Environmental Studies Program, said Colby has gained recognition as a national leader in sustainability based on both the academic work that students are doing, such as monitoring and reduction of energy use and harmful emissions, and the work of the Environmental Advisory Group (EAG). The EAG was formed three years ago to advise Colby’s president and the community on issues related to environmental stewardship of the campus and region. It includes students, faculty and administrators. Recent initiatives where the EAG played a role include:

  • incorporating green building certification programs in the designs of two planned buildings, one of which will be heated and cooled using geothermal energy;
  • switching to an electricity contract that substantially decreases the College’s responsibility for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions by purchasing energy exclusively from Maine hydropower and biomass generators—a move credited for helping establish a new green market for electricity in Maine;
  • sustaining production of 12 percent of the college’s electricity through a co-generation system at the campus steam plant;
  • a substantial reduction in energy use per square foot since 1990 despite the huge expansion of electrically powered technology on campus, according to a study conducted by one of Tietenberg’s students;
  • formal partnership with nationally recognized nonprofit organizations including Clean Air-Cool Planet, the Maine Green Power Connection, the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Leader in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) program.

On the academic side, Colby’s environmental studies program, one of the nation’s oldest, was expanded and restructured last year to offer even stronger programs in environmental science and environmental policy. The program entails considerable community outreach, including a focused course where seniors collaborate with local and state officials to analyze the water quality of area lakes and to make recommendations for remediation.

For more than 20 years students in that course have analyzed a lake watershed each year and presented findings to lake associations and the Department of Environmental Protection. This year Daniel Dubord of the China Regional Lake Alliance wrote, “Having been in the water quality ‘game’ for many years, I’ve seen a lot of studies done by so-called professionals that didn’t even come close to reaching the detail and professionalism that was exhibited in the report by your students.”

The EPA Environmental Merit Award follows a Maine Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence that Colby received in 2002. And the work continues. Tietenberg, an architect of emissions trading markets used worldwide to reduce pollution, said a student researcher is continuing an elaborate emissions inventory study. Among other projects the EAG is planning to pilot a biodiesel alternative fuel test and students are using new energy-efficient washers and dryers installed this winter and expected to save $10,000 a year in energy costs.

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Contact: Andrew Spejewski (617-918-1014), New England Office, Environmental Protection Agency
For Immediate Release: April 22, 2004 EPA Release # 04-04-27
Photos of winners receiving their awards will be available. Call Carol Krasauskis at 617-918-1108.

EPA Recognizes 11 From Maine With Environmental Merit Awards

BOSTON — At an Earth Day ceremony in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Office today recognized 11 individuals and organizations from Maine with Environmental Merit Awards, including one lifetime achievement award. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region’s environment. This year’s competition drew nearly 100 nominations from across New England.

“These individuals, organizations and businesses deserve our thanks for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “They have shown us that anyone can make a big difference, whether at work, at home, or in their neighborhood.”

The winners from Maine were among 34 from across New England. Awards were given in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization, as well as lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

Environmental Merit Award Winners from Maine are: