The College of the Atlantic, a small school in Maine, became carbon neutral almost a decade ago, largely by purchasing offsets. The school was proud of its effort, but President Darron Collins says buying carbon credits felt disconnected from college activities and classes.

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Collins: “It was actually students that really brought the torch to say, ‘Hey, we need to do something more. It’s not good enough just to write a check.’”

So the College of the Atlantic raised the bar and pledged to become fossil fuel free within the next thirty-five years. And as they make the switch to renewable energy, they’re tying every step of the process to the curriculum.

For example, students are overseeing the construction of a new solar canopy on campus – handling everything from the financing to the siting, design, and even the communication with the surrounding town.

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Collins: “I want them to have lived through an experience to see what it takes to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It is a human phenomenon, and I want them deeply steeped in the human phenomenon of energy.”

Collins says this hands-on approach to installing renewable energy might take a little longer, but it will teach students how to construct the sustainable world they want to live in.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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More Resources
College of the Atlantic Environmental Commitments
A College in Maine That Tackles Climate Change, One Class at a Time
America’s Greenest Schools: College of the Atlantic Makes the Top 20
15 Green Colleges and Universities

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...