EPA honors for leadership in renewable energy use

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Bates College for its leading role in the use of electricity from renewable sources, President Elaine Tuttle Hansen has announced.

The EPA has included Bates in its Green Power Leadership Club, which distinguishes institutions whose power purchases meet or exceed a certain proportion of renewable power. To qualify for the club, a consumer of Bates’ size would need to buy at least 18 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. But nearly 96 percent of the power that Bates purchases comes from such sources, including biomass generation, small hydro and wind power facilities.

Bates is the largest purchaser of green power both within the New England Small College Athletic Conference and among all small, private liberal arts colleges in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program helping to increase the use of green power.

Bates made the switch to green power in 2005. Through the energy brokers Constellation New Energy and Sterling Planet, the college purchases more than 13.1 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity annually. In effect, the EPA estimates, that prevents nearly 18.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of the CO2 emitted by an estimated 1,800 cars — from entering the atmosphere over the next year.

“As an educational institution, Bates has a longstanding commitment to both inform its community about the environment and reflect environmental responsibility in its policies and actions,” said Hansen. “We look for ways to be good stewards of all our resources, and the purchase of green energy is one more way we can live up to this commitment.”

Much more information appears on the EPA Web site.

Seniors at Bates typically select a fund-raising project during their last year at the college, and the class of 2006 decided to help defray the added costs of renewable electricity. The drive raised $19,903.83 for the project, more than a quarter of the difference between the 2005-06 costs of green power and electricity from conventional sources.

Two hundred and sixty-six seniors, or 67.5 percent of the class, took part, along with parents, other students and alumni. David Barlow, a Bates trustee, member of the college’s class of 1979 and chairman and CEO of the Massachusetts-based Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals, made matching gifts that totaled $10,000.

The senior gift co-chairs were Tracey Begley of New York City and John “Jamie” Nissen, originally of Cumberland and now a Boston resident. Other class leaders instrumental in the effort were Erin Culbreth of Montclair, N.J., and Nicole Moraco of Bedford, N.Y., members of a student team working with the college’s alumni office; and class co-presidents John Phelan of Washington, D.C., and Katharine Nolan of New York City.

“Batesies can pride themselves in ranking first among their peers in the New England Small College Athletic Conference” in the EPA listing, Phelan said. “We hope our efforts will contribute to future generations’ leadership in addressing the looming energy crisis in a progressive way.”

Bates is working on a three-to-five year strategy for implementing initiatives that will lighten its impact on the natural environment. Current initiatives run the gamut from a food-waste composting program recognized by the EPA to the use of biofuel to heat certain residential buildings.

Notably, a student residence and a dining facility now being built at Bates reflect an awareness of environmental sustainability in both their design and construction practices. Both facilities conform to sustainability standards equivalent to the “silver” certification of the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. (LEED registration and documentation were not performed.)

“Green” features in the construction process and the structures themselves include mandated recycling of construction waste; energy-efficient room design and utilities systems; stormwater management systems; low-emitting building materials; and the use of wood that’s recycled or certified “green” in the interiors.

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