Goddard’s Climate Commitment in Action: Sustainability Report

Goddard Annual Sustainability Progress Report July 2019

From the Sustainability Committee

Goddard College’s new Biomass Heating Plant at the Greatwoods campus in Plainfield, VT

The sustainability committee was formed in 2007 when Goddard’s president signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. We conducted a carbon inventory, created a climate action plan, and began working to reduce energy use and carbon emissions with a goal to become carbon neutral in fuels burned on campus and electricity usage by 2020.

We are excited to announce that we became carbon neutral in 2018, two years ahead of our goal!

Energy Efficiency

We began working towards carbon neutrality by reducing our use of energy through efficiency upgrades. We added more insulation to our buildings, replaced windows and tightened or double-paned the windows on our historic buildings, installed NEST thermostats, replaced transformers, switched all interior and exterior lights to LEDs, put timers on lights, and properly sized or eliminated electric hot water heaters. Since our first inventory in 2007, we have reduced our annual use of heating oil by 32% and our annual use of electricity by 56%. We are currently exploring consolidating our use of buildings to use less heating fuel during the winter, and having staff work from home part of the time to reduce transportation emissions. 

Biomass Heating System

Last fall, we installed a biomass heating system that heats all the campus buildings except for the Manor and the Cottage by burning woodchips. The system has propane fired backup boilers that we estimate use about 4095 gallons of propane/year to provide hot water during the summer months when we don’t need to heat the buildings. We estimate that this system reduces our carbon footprint from heating from 697 tons of CO2 in the 2006-2007 heating season to 73.38 tons of CO2 in the 2018 – 2019 heating season. 

Source of Woodchips

The woodchips come from within a 30 mile radius of the college as a byproduct of the forestry industry. By chipping low-grade trees at the time of harvest, the overall quality and productivity of the forest is increased. Our wood chip consumption is expected to be about 900 tons annually. Our system uses state of the art equipment including an electrostatic precipitator, the latest technology to clean the emissions from the smoke stack. Wood burned for heating is essentially carbon neutral because the cull trees cut down for fuel are replaced over time by natural regeneration of new trees. While burning oil and other fossil fuels has created the climate crisis, burning wood that is harvested sustainably is one of the solutions. 

Community Solar System

We have signed a 25 year contract with groSolar to be part of a 900 mWh community solar system in Benson, VT that went online at the end of December 2017. We don’t have enough room on the campus for all the panels we need, so community solar is a good alternative. In community solar, instead of the electricity generated by solar panels going directly to our campus, it goes into the Green Mountain Power grid, and we count 297,000 kWhs/year as ours. At Green Mountain Power’s current carbon footprint, getting three quarters of our electricity from solar reduces our carbon footprint from electricity from 69 tons of CO2/year to 19.7 tons of CO2/year. There was no cost to the college to join the community system, and we will save about $8,865/year on our electric bill. As a result of getting most of our electricity from solar, Goddard is now a member of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership.

Carbon Neutral and Carbon Negative

Carbon neutral in fuels burned on campus and electricity means that our forests sequester all the CO2 that our heat and electricity generation create. Carbon negative means that our forests sequester more CO2 than we create. Through our energy efficiency upgrades, installing the biomass heating system that almost ends our use of heating oil, and joining the community solar system, we have exceeded carbon neutrality and become carbon negative in fuels used on campus and electricity in the 2018 – 2019 school year. The 26 tons of CO2 from burning propane + 47.38 tons CO2 from burning oil + 19.7 tons of CO2 from grid electricity = 93 tons CO2 from heat and electricity generation/year. Our 60 acres of forested land sequester about 253 tons CO2/year. 253 tons sequestered – 93 tons CO2 produced = 160 tons sequestered. This means that our forests sequester about 160 more tons of CO2 than our heat and electricity generation produce, and this makes us carbon negative.

Food Service

We get 62% of our foods from local farms and vendors. Littlewood Farm in Plainfield and Flywheel Farm in Woodbury are two of our main suppliers, we get produce from Black River Produce in Springfield, VT and Upper Valley Regional Producers in White River Junction, VT, and we have a membership in the Green Mountain Farm Direct Network. Many of our baked goods are made in the Goddard kitchen from whole wheat grown at Butterworks Farm in Westfield, VT, flour milled at Champlain Mills, and Cabot butter. We get Kombucha from Aqua ViTea in Middlebury, VT, and tea from The Vermont Liberty Tea Co. that grows and packs its own teas and herbs in Waterbury, VT. We are also working to reduce waste and have eliminated nearly all disposable products. All food wastes are composted on campus, and the compost is used in the Goddard gardens. We are looking into serving less meat to reduce our emissions from meat production and invite your input.


We divested the Goddard endowment in January 2015 and moved the funds into two fossil fuel free accounts at Trillium Asset Management in Boston. 

Travel to Campus

There is a ride share board at http://gnet.goddard.edu/ under Community, Ride Share Postings.

The 2019 Groundbreaker of the Year Award 

On March 19, 2019 Goddard received the 2019 Groundbreaker of the Year Award from Biomass Magazine and BBI International for our commitment to sustainability as evidenced by our wood chip heating system. Our president Bernard Bull accepted the award at the International Biomass Conference & Expo in Savannah, Georgia.

National Climate Leadership Award

In 2013, Goddard was one of ten colleges chosen to receive the National Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature, the support organization of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Sustainability Listserv

The sustainability listserv that was started in Spring 2008 to send a once a week message about sustainability and climate change news and resources to the Goddard community now has 395 members. Let us know if you would like to be included.


We welcome your ideas about how we can further advance sustainability at Goddard. We would like to build a culture that invites everyone to cultivate sustainability.

Submitted by Catherine Lowther for the Sustainability Committee

Bernard Bull, President of Goddard

Steve James, Academic Dean

Bob Buchanan, Faculty UGP 2

Catherine Lowther, Faculty for the Climate Literacy Course

Chair of the Sustainability Committee

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