A meeting of the Vermont Campus Sustainability Network (VCSN) brought together representatives from several Vermont colleges to focus on "building local partnerships in sustainability." The meeting, hosted at Green Mountain College, included presentations about college initiatives, as well as discussion of how higher education can contribute to building green workforce capacity, providing residential energy efficiency audits, and disseminating knowledge of sustainability practices and opportunities.
How can local partnerships enhance the impact of colleges in realizing a sustainable and desirable future? A course in development at Bennington College called "future of the former mill town" holds potential to engage the local community in a shared visioning and planning process. In Middlebury, connecting with a thriving town energy committee helps coordinate the college's and town's efforts to develop renewable energy projects.
This meeting facilitated cross-pollination between colleges as they move toward increasing their institutions' focus on, and practices in, sustainability. Participants also came together in considering how the higher education sector might contribute to drafting and implementing a Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, recently revitalized by the Department of Public Service - a potential partnership at the state level, though it could in some ways still be considered local by rural Vermont standards. Ideas included
- using colleges as models and resources for other sectors aiming for increased energy efficiency and reliance on renewable energy sources,
- teaching and offering certifications related to renewable energy technologies, and
- directing students and mobilizing researchers toward initiatives that directly support the state plan.