One of America's tiniest colleges has become the first to take a giant step in reducing its greenhouse gas footprint. Like, to zero dudes.
Maine's 300 person College of The Atlantic, which only gets attention annually when the Best 366 Colleges Guide is compiled,has reduced its total greenhouse gas footprint to exactly zilch. The school, which claims to be "life changing, world changing," is the first among the more than 450 institutions of higher learning that took the "net-zero" pledge to reduce or offset all of their carbon dioxide emissions.
The term "carbon neutral" refers to the practice of balancing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air with the amount being removed from the atmosphere, either by using renewable energy or through carbon offsets elsewhere.
College of the Atlantic pulled it off by investing in carbon offsets through The Climate Trust of Oregon, at a cost of about $25,000. The trust is reducing carbon dioxide emissions by optimizing traffic signals and managing traffic flow in Portland, Oregon, which shortens the amount of time cars spend idling at traffic lights.
Carbon-neutrality is a malleable term. Emissions can be reduced through using renewable energy or buying offsets. In most sustainability circles, the former (making real changes) is considered preferable to offsets. So, buying them is a good first step, but as college president David Hales acknowledged, "[they] have much more to do to directly reduce our emissions."
President Hales went on to say that COA hopes other institutions will be inspired to follow suit, A wholesale rush to greenification might not be coming as fast as the good folk at COA would like. Their school, is after all, uniquely geared for this achievement.College of the Atlantic has about 300 students drawn from 47 states and 51 countries who all study in the one program offered by the school: Human Ecology.
Since its foundation in 1969 to offer a new educational philosophy to prepare students to address the world's social and environmental challenges, the institution has been walking the walk: in 1972, students were instrumental in getting Maine to pass its groundbreaking bottle recycling bill; in 2004, it become the first institution of higher learning to sign a multiple-year contract to offset 100 per cent of the emissions generated from its electricity use in 2004 and in 2005, the college had the first zero-waste graduation; commencement and a reception for 800 people netted no more than five pounds of waste.
The school is among more than 450 universities and colleges to take "net-zero" pledges through the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment program.