Colby has the second-highest sustainability rating among 260 schools rated in the premier sustainability tracking system in North America. Of the 77 schools to earn gold ratings, only Green Mountain College, a school of 826 students in Poultney, Vt., has a higher Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) rating than Colby’s 75.65, according to an analysis of data on the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) website.
As of March 4, 2015, Stanford University, one point below Colby, was third, and University of Wisconsin was fourth. Middlebury (72.61 points) was the only other NESCAC school rated gold.
A wide range of campus sustainability initiatives contributed to the gold STARS rating, but Colby’s declaration of carbon neutrality in 2013 and the operation of the campus biomass heating plant were key factors. Also contributing to Colby’s carbon neutrality and the STARS gold rating were the College’s move to 100-percent renewable electricity sources in 2003, its pursuit of LEED certification in all new construction and major renovation projects, and retrofitting energy-intensive components of existing buildings with more-efficient alternatives. Completion of the biomass heating plant in 2011 and the purchase of carbon offsets covering the College’s remaining carbon emissions beginning in 2013 capped efforts to achieve carbon neutrality.
Colby’s Office of Sustainability completed and submitted its latest STARS application for AASHE’s transparent, self-reporting framework in December. Sustainability Coordinator Kevin Bright, with the help of environmental studies majors Casey Ballin ’16 and Jeff Meltzer ’15, spent months meeting with administrators, staff, and faculty members to discuss and assess aspects of the College’s sustainability profile.
Colby’s Environmental Advisory Group (EAG) is currently discussing changes around campus that would further lower the College’s environmental impact in pursuit of a STARS platinum rating, which no college or university in the world has yet earned, Bright said. Though Colby is ahead of all other colleges but one in sustainability efforts and practices, according to STARS scores, it continues to seek improvements and is currently discussing additional local food purchasing, work on existing buildings, further reduction of energy use, more diversion of waste from the landfill, and additional investments and initiatives including photovoltaic projects.
Colby’s STARS application and rating online offers a fairly comprehensive view of the College’s sustainability initiatives. The Green Colby website covers a broad range of sustainability initiatives at Colby.