Sterling College, VT "Sustainable Sterling"

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Sterling College, VT, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Established in 2004

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Sustainable Sterling is a renewed effort directed toward greening the campus and infrastructure of Sterling College. This initiative, started in 2004, challenges our college community members to live in accordance with the College’s mission statement, as well as educate visitors about sustainability efforts on campus. Through Sustainable Sterling projects, we hope that Sterling College can model appropriately scaled and regionally suitable sustainable living practices – the idea behind grassroots sustainability.

Since the time of its establishment, Sterling College has been consistent in its attempts to lessen its ecological impact on the earth. We started our recycling and energy conservation programs in the 1970s and 80s and have gradually increased our use of Sterling-grown and locally grown foods in our dining hall through the last decade. Sustainable Sterling is a renewal of that commitment.

Campus Sustainability in Practice

Institutional Commitment


Dining Services

  • use of Sterling grown and locally-grown, organic vegetables and meat to use in a whole-foods based menu
  • partnership with Stratford Organic Creamery to supply organic milk
  • bulk purchasing to reduce wastes
  • make our own breads and granola, thereby reducing transportation costs and impacts
  • integrated mission statement emphasizing a “living what we teach” philosophy
  • Vermont Fresh Network member

Conservation and Efficiency

  • use of CFL bulbs throughout campus
  • adding insulation and replacing old windows
  • working with Efficiency Vermont on more efficient lighting in some of our buildings
  • availability of outdoor clotheslines


  • animal barns powered by solar and wind

Water Conservation/Efficiency

  • low-flow shower and faucet fixtures
  • low-flow toilets for any new/replacements
  • composting outhouse by lean-tos

Waste Reduction

  • minimal disposables used on campus (only used during power outages and for some outdoor events)
  • no vending machines
  • frequent use of double-sided copies
  • junk mail reduction project


  • Reusable Office and Equipment Supply closet
  • clothes swaps/free boxes
  • move out collections
  • scrap paper boxes by all printers/copiers
  • #10 cans used for cooking pots for outdoor programs
  • making old bikes usable again for the Green Bikes program


  • mixed paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminum, glass
  • overhead transparency sheets, toner cartridges, computers, monitors, fluorescent bulbs, tires
  • compost all food (pre and post-consumer) and barn wastes

Green Purchasing

  • 100% post-consumer recycled content, chlorine-free paper for all copiers/printers
  • recycled content for Sterling College publications
  • non-toxic cleaning products for residences and offices
  • some new furniture purchases through local manufacturers (examples: computer lab tables from Neudorfer, beds made by local craftsman)

Green Building Principles

  • renovation of buildings (Library, Mager, Merlin) includes use of natural light and radiant floor heating
  • use of our own harvested timber/lumber for use to build lean-tos, bike/garden shed, fencing, and other farm projects


Green Spaces

  • 100+ acre woodlot with Nature Trails and Lean-Tos, 300+ acre Bear Swamp
  • 1 acre of certified organic gardens
  • minimal pesticide use on grounds

In 2004-2005 a thorough Sustainability Assessment was completed on campus, researching everything to how much energy we consume to how we teach various indicators of sustainability across our curriculum. The assessment also identified areas of improvement and gave specific recommendations. A few highlights from that assessment include:

  • The Sterling College core curriculum includes, to some extent, all of the topics of sustainability (as listed by the University Leaders for a Sustainable Future). The additional elective courses further augment this statement.
  • According to Efficiency Vermont, Sterling College costs for electricity and fuel oil total $0.77/ft2, whereas typical buildings housing similar activities would consume $1.00/ft2 to $1.30/ft2.
  • In the summer and fall of 2004, 9,844 pounds of organic produce were harvested for the Sterling College kitchen from both the Sterling gardens and from local farmers. Students did most of this work.
  • In 2002-2003 we diverted 15,410 lbs. of food waste from the landfill by composting it in our on campus compost system.