Leading Green in Higher Education – Supporting Colorado Mountain College’s Sustainability Action Plan launch

CMCIn a world in crisis, institutions of higher education have a unique obligation to lead their communities into a regenerative future: they produce our future leaders and workforce. Numerous studies show that young people are more likely to attend a college that takes environmental responsibility seriously. Young people (97% of those surveyed) want to work for a green company. Students seek training that will allow them to get a job in the industries of the future. As we all work to build the communities in which we wish to live, it is wise of educational institutions to enhance sustainability and do so in a way that engages their whole community.

From going carbon neutral to divesting endowments from fossil fuel portfolios, colleges and universities are seeking actionable sustainability roadmaps. And NCS has been here to help them.

One of the leaders in this realm is Colorado Mountain College (CMC), right in our own backyard. A treasure across the Colorado high country, CMC aspires to be the most inclusive and innovative student-centered college in the nation, elevating the economic, social, cultural, and environmental vitality of our beautiful Rocky Mountain communities. Its connection to local communities in numerous locations across 12,000 square miles in the Colorado Rockies defines CMC as an institution. Colorado Mountain College is linked to and dependent upon the health and vitality of its communities, the greater Mountain region, and the world at large.

CMC has committed itself to a leadership role in sustainability, signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, as well as introducing a BA in Sustainability, and initiating numerous sustainability, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects across its campuses. Now CMC has taken an even larger step by committing to go completely carbon neutral and implement sustainability across program areas. The inevitable question for the College was “how in the heck are we going to get there?”

cmc1After an intense national request for proposal (RFP) process, NCS was honored to be chosen to help CMC set an actionable sustainability plan that includes envisioning, developing, and implementing more regenerative, sustainable practices across the entire institution.

To do so, NCS worked with CMC to collect significant sustainability data in all program areas. Using onsite and documentation audits, a best practices review of other educational institutions, conducting stakeholder interviews and surveys, and including CMC student internship support, NCS created a CMC Sustainability Action Plan Recommendations Report. This sets goals and targets related to eight specific program areas, and makes recommendations to achieve stated targets. The resulting aggressive, but very doable, long-term goals recommended to CMC include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Carbon neutral by 2050
  • Zero Waste by 2050
  • Transportation related emissions cut 85% by 2050 (Scope 1 fleet vehicles)
  • 50% of purchasing sustainably sourced by 2050 (by spend)
  • 75% of food sustainably sourced by 2050
  • Reduce and eliminate the use of all potable water and toxic chemicals from groundskeeping

The Plan details specific initiatives applicable to each of the program areas. And it identifies, and helps address, the resources needed to implement commitments. It targets achieving carbon neutrality and such sustainable practices as financing deep green; staff support; revolving sustainability funds; student participation; and integrating sustainability content across its academic programs.

The resulting Sustainability Action Plan will be launched on Earth Day at CMC’s second annual Sustainability Conference (April 21-22, 2016). A practical, organization-wide, holistic guide it leverages and builds upon initiatives taking place at individual campuses to achieve carbon neutrality goals as well as other environmental, social, economic and institutional targets. As a part of this launch, NCS’s Hunter Lovins and Peter Krahenbuhl will keynote CMC’s Sustainability Conference at the College’s Steamboat Springs Campus.

CMC has taken great strides already. The Plan will drive CMC to use more renewable energy, serve more sustainable food, travel in lower carbon ways, and enhance the livability of its buildings by implementing an array of green building measures.

The level of engagement from students, faculty, staff, administration and all segments of CMC made possible the depth of recommendations contained within the plan. It is easy to implement a few measures, put up a recycling bin and call it done. CMC’s decision to engage internationally renowned expertise on how to better deliver on its ongoing commitment to excellence makes it a true leader. The plan looks holistically across the College’s operations, and creates a strategy to integrate measures to cut its costs as it increases its resilience. NCS is honored to have had the opportunity to contribute to its effort.

If you are interested in learning more about our approach to helping educational institutions go carbon neutral and or implement sustainability holistically, please contact peter@natcapsolutions.org.