Delicate Balance Project Ideas

A list of Delicate Balance sustainability projects provided by Ryan Ihrke, Green Mountain College Sustainability coordinator.

Please contact Ryan if you have suggestions for other campus sustainability projects. ihrker@greenmtn.edu


        
 
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100% Rewable Energy by 2020

100% Renewable Energy by 2020—Last spring, Steve Letendre’s RETA class developed a roadmap for how to achieve 100% renewable energy by Poultney 2020. In the short-term, the road map calls on the College to increase offset renewables to source alternative energy from the electric grid, while increasing electric and thermal effiency on campus. Over a longer term, the road map calls for development of on-site renewables. The conceptual groundwork has been laid for these projects, along a fair amount of technical detail. To jumpstart some of these projects, strategic financial planning is needed to incorporate these projects into our existing mix of solar projects, while seeking funding through the green revolving loan fund, SCGF, or other sources. (Contact Steve Letendre)

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Climate Resiliency Inventory

Climate Resiliency Inventory—the ACUPCC (American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment) is challenging schools across the nation to begin inventorying resilience and preparing plans for increasing resilience as it relates to global climate change and financial challenges. GMC will likely take on this challenge. A student could work on building a conceptual model of how to carry-out a resilience inventory. The resilience movement and corresponding markets are growing, so students with resilience skills will be positioning themselves well for a job. (Contact Ryan Ihrke)

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Solar Pump System for Rock Sculpture

Solar Pump System for Rock Sculpture by Library—the director of facilities, Bill Ballard, and sustainability director Aaron Witham would like cut off the water intake to the fountain by the library and create a closed loop water system that runs by solar power. In order to have a closed loop system, solar power is essential because there is no power source to run the pumps if the water supply from the library is cut off. The system will also need some method of water treatment to keep the water free from algae blooms, but the treatment should be something environmentally-friendly. As part of this project, the student could also make the fountain more artistic. Slate can be donated from a local quarry to aid in the artistic development of the project. As an extension of this project, there might also be an opportunity to do something with the pond by Surdam. One or two students could take on this project. Students in REED, art, environmental studies, or other majors may be interested in helping to solve this design problem. (Contact Bill Ballard in facilities).

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Natural Capital

Weatherization of GMC Farmhouse- The Student Campus Greening Fund has supported funding for the weatherization of GMC’s Farmhouse. Contractors have been contacted and the project will likely be completed over spring break. Additional projects to support the weatherization project include organizing student volunteers to help prepare the house for weatherization, completing some air sealing of the building, and documenting the story of the weatherization that would include creating a video of the project. (Contact Ben Trimichari or Carl Diethelm in the sustainability office.)

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Improving Composting & Recycling

Improving composting & recycling at college-sponsored events—this project would target the management of recycling and compost at college-sponsored events, building on the sustainability event certification process and the idea to have rentable roll-away bins. In this case, the goal would be to develop a plan for acquiring the recycling and composting bins needed for events, and a plan for finding volunteers to take care of them. Currently, this workload is too much for the recycling or compost crews to handle. To find volunteers, the student may devise a plan for advertising to Sage Hall every semester (Sage has a community-service requirement) or to other departments, student clubs, etc. (Contact Ryan Ihrke)

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Reusable Dishware for Chartwells

Work with Chartwells to make reusable dishware the norm at catered events—Like any other business, Chartwells has to watch their expenditures very closely and often reusable dishware is more expensive to carry, clean, and maintain than disposable dishware. For this reason, Chartwells using compostable dishware at about 50% of their events. They are trying to make a good ecological choice, but unfortunately this dishware is not compostable in our compost system and there are mixed reviews on how environmentally-friendly the material really is. The student working on this project would start by trying to understand Chartwells’ concerns with using reusable dishware, and then research potential solutions that address those concerns. The student would also need to research the full life cycle costs of compostable dishware versus recyclable dishware vs reusable dishware. (Contact Ryan Ihrke and Cindy Ondria in Chartwells)

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Social Capital

Social impact of alumni—The alumni impact survey sent out every year has data on how much time alumni spend deliberately enhancing the social fabric of their communities. As part of the Sustainability 2020 goal, the College would like to increase this number over time. But, how does the College teach or incentive this behavior? What does enhancing social fabric look like in reality? How does GMC’s alumni impact compare to the average college alumni pool? These are tough questions to answer, but a research or hands-on project might be able to address some of these. (Contact Bianca Zanella, the community service & outreach coordinator in the sustainability office)

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Financial Capital

Positive Investment Screen for the Endowment--Create a positive investment screen for the endowment—Last spring, GMC completed divestment from fossil fuels in the endowment. The next step is to create a positive screen or ESG (Environmental Social Governance Policy). The Board of Trustees voted to have GMC explore this option. Check out the Intentional Endowments Network for more information about this topic and for tools to help you along the way. (Contact Ryan Ihrke and other interested students such as Simon James and Hannah Rhea).

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Natural Capital

Paper Reduction Project--When we look at paper use data at GMC over the past year, since October, 14, 2014, 2004 kg of CO2 have been generated or the equivalent of 5.2 trees have be used to produce the paper the GMC campus has used through our networked printers and copiers. Although many people at GMC care about waste and paper use, the efforts to reduce use of paper often is by the individual.  Some ideas to pursue this goal could include: 

• Conduct an analysis of paper use data and a campaign to share this data with the College community. Data is collected via Papercut Software and could be available for this purpose.

• Present educational programs on digital note-taking for classes or reducing paper-use in the workplace. Partner with Green Job Corps and potentially the Learning Center to focus on digital resources available, staying organized, and becoming more efficient.  

• Conduct surveys and/or focus groups to identify when and why people use a lot of paper.

• Create print quotas to discourage non-essential printing. 

• Make recommendations on policies, practices or targets for paper use reduction to the student body and Green Mountain’s administration. (Contact Brian May in information technology services or Ryan Ihrke in the sustainability office.)

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