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Vermont Campus Greening Conference Gathers Environmental Leaders

By the view Staff Article published October 29, 2003

With their complex buildings, idealistic constituents and focus on spreading knowledge rather than making profits, colleges and universities can and often do serve as models of environmentally sustainable practices to audiences outside of higher education.

But tight budgets, uneven distribution of expertise and, sometimes, institutional obstinacy can make progress difficult. To build connections — and more campus environmental initiatives in more places — Stephanie Kaza, associate professor natural resources, and her colleagues on the UVM Environmental Council spearheaded the first Vermont Campus Greening Conference, a two-day cavalcade of forums, lectures and networking held Oct. 23-24.

The event attracted representatives from about half of Vermont’s colleges, as well as delegates from Maine and Massachusetts. The subtitle "from ideology to action" of a plenary talk by Sarah Hammond Creighton, an environmental manager at Tufts University and author of Greening the Ivory Tower, set the tone of her talk and for many of the conference’s other events.

Creighton discussed the challenges of advocating for (often expensive) green building technology on her campus, as well as measuring and paying for progress within the context of a large, budget-conscious institution. Other conference events included a review of three successful green projects at Middlebury College; instruction on practical topics ranging from hazardous waste to native landscaping to alternative fuels; and a lecture by a Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental journalist.

The conference’s organizers were encouraged by turnout at the event, especially among Vermont campuses, and plan to sustain the network with future environment-related events and meetings.