The Williams College Community Climate Fund is a community carbon reduction program that invests in projects that benefit the local community. Born from an exploration of the possibility of local carbon offsets (a project that was ultimately not pursued), the Community Climate Fund (CCF) has invested in over 17 projects since 2019.
In developing criteria for the types of projects, the most important elements were that the projects positively impact the surrounding community, especially underserved populations, and that they could provide experiential learning opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. Ultimately this resulted in a mix of project types that support different strategies to carbon reduction.
The CCF has supported a number of different projects since its inception in 2019. The projects are summarized below. For additional information, the quarterly reports about the projects can be found at the bottom of this page.
In 2015 the Board of Trustees committed to reduce campus "emissions to 35% below 1990 levels by 2020 and purchase sufficient carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2020.” They also committed the college to invest “in projects that reduce carbon emissions in our local region.” In 2017, the college began exploring ways to integrate local projects into the school's emissions goals. Williams along with its peer institutions Amherst, Smith, and Hampshire hired the Center for EcoTechnology, a local environmental organization, to help design a fund through which the institutions could invest in carbon reduction projects and identify potential projects in the local community.
The college initially explored the possibility of developing these projects as local carbon offsets but found various challenges. The main challenge was demonstrating the additionality (that the project would not have happened without someone purchasing carbon offsets) of many of these projects. Another challenge for these projects was the costs of third-party verification, which for smaller scale, complex projects such as the ones being explored were prohibitively high. A report from the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) Working Group on Carbon Offsets outlines these challenges more extensively and other concerns regarding local offsets. Ultimately the College opted to not consider these projects offsets (nor count them against our emissions) but decided to invest in them nonetheless - as it did not want the qualifications and formality of developing offsets to get in the way of investing in projects that benefited the community and the college.
EcoBuilding Bargains (EBB) is a retail store in Springfield operated by CET to divert valuable used and surplus building materials from landfills and incinerators and sell them at low cost to budget constrained do-it-yourselfer households. Each year, CET helps thousands of individuals complete building and remodeling projects at a lower cost, and creates jobs. EBB relies on donations of building materials from individuals and contractors, and donations are limited by the ability to pick up materials in a timely fashion. CCF funding supported the collection and transport of building materials to the store, yielding significant carbon offsets by avoiding disposal and giving these materials a new life.
Project Spec Sheet: CCF Building Materials Recovery Project Spec Sheet
Written by Austin Huang ‘22, Community Carbon Reduction Intern, Spring 2019
Individuals with severe asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) suffer disproportionately from the impacts of poor indoor air quality. However, this population is notably underrepresented among beneficiaries of existing energy efficiency incentive programs. CET partnered with the U.S. EPA, Berkshire Health Systems, E4theFuture and others to pilot a comprehensive approach to improving energy efficiency, human health, and indoor air quality for patients in Berkshire communities. CCF made targeted investments in heat recovery ventilation and other energy efficiency measures not covered by existing programs, as well as “roadblocks” to installing energy efficiency improvements (such as excessive moisture and mold). These investments were used to unlock additional energy efficiency incentives, yielding significant total carbon reduction, enhanced indoor air quality, and improved occupant health.
CCF investments amplified the impact and reach of Berkshire Community Action Council’s (BCAC) initiative to provide weatherization services, heating system replacement, and fuel assistance to low-income households in Berkshire County. BCAC has a waiting list of almost 100 low-income households who need updated heating systems but insufficient funds to reach them all. CCF investments covered the installed cost of new, energy efficient air source heat pump systems, saving recipients energy and money, creating local jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Child Care of the Berkshires, located in North Adams, MA is a non-profit organization that provides daycare services for families from throughout the north Berkshire area, many of whom are low income. An aging oil-fired boiler heats the daycare center. CCF funding provided the opportunity to install a SolarWall. SolarWall technology is a passive solar system that integrates into a building’s existing HVAC. It reduces energy usage and subsequently greenhouse gas emissions by warming up the outdoor “intake” air before it goes through the HVAC system. CCF funding enabled the non-profit to install the system and generate on-site solar energy to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
CET administers the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program, which assists farms with implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions to reduce costs and the carbon footprint of their operations. They also help farms access state and federal incentives for these solutions, which are provided on a reimbursement basis. CET has found that a significant number of high impact projects get stymied because farms lack the upfront capital – and that will be true now more than ever. The revolving loan fund provides the bridge capital that farms need, and will be repaid upon receipt of incentives. CET will take a modest administrative fee with each loan cycle; however, these funds will be deployed multiple times, yielding significant carbon reduction with each round. $10k is earmarked for these projects.
In FY22, the CCF supported Chase Hill Farm, a 270-acre dairy farm located in Warwick, MA to support the purchase and installation of a ground mounted, 30-panel 12.6 kW solar PV system. The loan will be recovered as soon as the farm receives disbursement of their awarded grants.
The small business market represents a large – and largely untapped – opportunity for energy efficiency measures across Massachusetts. According to the MA Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, small businesses account for 40% of energy consumption and 97% of commercial and industrial customers. However, efforts to improve the energy efficiency of this segment routinely fall short.
CET administers energy efficiency programs across Massachusetts, conducting energy audits, developing energy action plans, and working with businesses and non-profits to prioritize projects and access utility incentives. CCF investments help unlock energy efficiency projects that would not otherwise move forward due to lack of funds. In many instances, the investments go toward removing “roadblocks” to energy efficiency, such as removal of knob-and-tube wiring and asbestos, for which there are no incentives; in other cases, CCF dollars are used to supplement utility incentives if businesses lack funding for the co-pay. This investment will enable installation of measures such as insulation, air sealing and heat recovery that significantly reduce carbon and save businesses hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in heating and cooling costs.
A committee comprised of residents and representatives from Williams College, the Williamstown COOL Committee, Town of Williamstown, the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District, and Casella Waste Management is conducting a pilot program to evaluate options for reducing and composting food waste generated by targeted residents and restaurants in Williamstown. The goal is to develop comprehensive town and region-wide waste reduction and composting infrastructure as a model for other North Berkshire towns to replicate to expand composting services into their communities.
The Community Climate Fund aligns with Williams’ commitment, as spelled out in the strategic plan, to mitigate climate change and making a positive impact on our local community. Going forward, we anticipate continuing to fund local carbon reduction projects in the community.
For more information about the CCF, check out the Community Climate Fund Quarterly Reports.