Colorado Mountain College unveils sustainability action plan | SteamboatToday.com

Colorado Mountain College unveils sustainability action plan

Sustainability studies student Olivia Goldsworthy, right, explains her poster to fellow student Molly Goldberg at Colorado Mountain College's Sustainability Conference in Steamboat Springs in April. Goldsworthy's poster explains her recent internship, which involved researching sustainable food sourcing and preparation, as well as waste minimization.

— Colorado Mountain College continues to take steps forward in sustainability efforts, with a goal of neutralizing its carbon footprint entirely by 2050.

The latest development is the launch of a Sustainability Action Plan, unveiled during CMC's second annual sustainability conference, held at the college's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs on April 22.

The plan, a product of nine months of collaboration with nonprofit Natural Capitalism Solutions, took into account existing and past sustainability efforts and offered a roadmap for the future.

"Sustainability is part of our mission and our vision statement for the college," said Pete Waller, CMC director of college facilities, who worked with NCS on the plan.

College officials are reviewing the recommendations in the plan and will consider various components of it.

Long-term targets suggested in the plan include 2050 goals of zero waste, cutting transportation-related emissions by 85 percent, purchasing sustainably sourced products 50 percent of the time, using sustainably sourced food 75 percent of the time and reducing and eliminating the use of all potable water and toxic chemicals from grounds keeping.

Recommended Stories For You

"There are two tracks that we work on to get net zero," Waller said. "One is you want to reduce your carbon footprint, and the other is to have more dependence on renewables."

The college already has taken several steps to improve collegewide sustainability since 2009, when the college's then-president signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, pledging to work toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

The college would achieve net-zero carbon emissions by offsetting all carbon dioxide released in the context of transportation and energy production, among other areas.

As energy providers begin to use more renewable energy, it helps the college work toward its energy use goals, Waller said.

After signing the commitment, the college conducted an energy audit and spent $3 million on upgrades to windows, water usage and heat systems.

When building the Academic Center in Steamboat Springs, a geothermal exchange field was put in place outside the building to transfer heat from the ground to use as energy.

A facilities energy management program also looks at installing LED lights, studies building envelopes and checks for escaping energy in buildings.

All of those efforts and more have led to the college reducing its energy use by 7 percent last year and increasing renewable energy use.

"We're at a little over 16 percent of our energy coming from renewables," Waller said. "That's a mix between our geoexchange fields, our solar and a big part of the from our energy providers."

At Steamboat's campus specifically, students and staff already are well on their way to reducing food waste and using more sustainably sourced food through efforts of the campus Food Club, created last year.

Members have donated food to nonprofits, given food scraps for use as pig food and held events to educate students about food waste.

Food Club President Olivia Goldsworthy also drafted a policy to help the college meet its initial goal of sourcing 20 percent "real food" by 2020, a commitment signed by former Campus Vice President Peter Perhac.

"Real food is ecologically sound, local, humane, and/or fair trade and is measured against a pretty rigorous set of standards," Goldsworthy said. "CMC has a lot of purchasing power, so committing ourselves to sourcing our food mindfully creates a stir much higher on the food chain than if each student were doing it individually."

Last month's sustainability conference was well attended by faculty, staff and sustainability students from every college campus, with more than 200 in attendance.

In 2011 the college introduced sustainability as one of CMC's first Bachelor of Arts degrees, and Waller said it's clear that sustainability is something important to students across the mountain regions in which CMC operates.

"Where we live, people are very environmentally conscious," Waller said. "People live here, because they enjoy the outdoors and they care about the outdoors."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow