Sustainability at Sterling goes well beyond conventional practices—the reality of living and learning on our rural Vermont campus cultivates a deep sense of community based on an intimate relationship with the natural world, making “sustainability” both a way of life and a path of study.
The campus community has a shared vision for appropriately scaled and regionally suitable sustainable living practices—what we like to call “grassroots sustainability.”
Sustainability in Practice
STARS Gold Rating
In 2015, Sterling College earned a STARS Gold Rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). This is Sterling College’s first time participating in STARS. The College’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website.
We were also named a Top Performer in the 2015 Sustainable Campus Index, achieving the number one ranking in Dining & Food, tying for first place in both Grounds and Coordination & Planning, tied for third place in Investment, and ranked fifth for Curriculum.
Our core curriculum includes a full spectrum of courses related to sustainability, and the Work program exposes all students to jobs that directly support sustainability initiatives on campus and throughout the community.
- Sterling College was the third college in the nation, and the first college in Vermont, to divest its endowment from fossil fuel extractors.
- Sterling College has two 4kW solar panels that move with the sun. This maximizes the amount of sunlight reaching the panels, which in turn maximizes the amount of electricity they generate for the campus.
- The College recently got the go-ahead from Hardwick Electric to install 11 more solar trackers from AllEarth Renewables; this will allow us to power more than 80% of our electricity use with solar power.
- The barns are also powered by their own solar panels and a wind turbine.
- Sterling College is #1 in the nation for serving “real food”—food that is local, sustainable, humane, and fair-trade.
- Sterling does not outsource its food services. Instead, the kitchen works with the Farm and Garden crews to make best use of our immediate food resources and prepare delicious and nutritious meals.
- 20 percent of the food served on campus is raised and harvested by students in our own gardens, fields, farm, forests, and orchards—we call this Farm-to-Table.
- Our kitchen is also a longtime member of the Vermont Fresh Network—connecting with local farms to put fresh food on the table.
- Sterling uses a mixed power model of animal and machine on the farm and in the fields.
- Most of our field, garden, farm, and forest work is done with draft horses.
- Our own sawmill produces lumber from our managed woodlot, which is used in many campus projects.
- Our campus hasn’t had vending machines for over a decade, and doesn’t use food trays or disposable dishes.
- Nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products are stocked throughout campus.
- Mixed source recycling is a priority throughout campus.
- We compost all food (pre and post-consumer) and barn wastes.
- The Green Bike Program provides the Sterling College community with a fleet of functional and safe bicycles for use around campus.
- The Ride Share Program helps community members carpool.
- We use 100 percent post-consumer recycled, chlorine free paper for all copiers and printers.
- Sterling College publications are printed on recycled paper and use soy ink.
- We purchase furniture through local manufacturers and craftsmen.
- Instead of constructing new buildings, we renovate existing structures whenever possible. Recent renovations include the use of natural light, solar hot water heaters, and radiant floor heating.
- We have a 100+ acre managed woodlot with nature trails and lean-tos.
- Students can pursue research projects in the 300+ acre Bear Swamp Wildlife Reserve.
- The Sterling Farm and Gardens are laboratories for best practices in sustainable agriculture.
- There is no pesticide use on the grounds.
- The Virginia Russell Sugarbush was just recognized as being bird-friendly by Audubon Vermont.
- We even let the sheep, goats, and horses do a little “mowing” on the campus lawns when no one’s looking. OK, even when people are looking.
If your values lead you to commit to becoming an environmental steward and you want the rigor and challenge of working with both your hands and your mind, Sterling College could be the right place for you. We encourage you to schedule a visit to campus or sign up for more information.