First Batch of Projects to be funded with REC Revenue

In 2023 the college began to arbitrage its Farmington, Maine solar PV renewable energy certificates (RECs) with Green-e certified solar PV RECs from dirtier grid regions (you can read more about this program on the Zilkha Center’s webpage). An integral part of the program is to use the net revenue generated to fund additional climate-beneficial projects on campus. Following a participatory process involving project solicitation, further development and review, the first projects have now been selected:

Sustainable Campus Landscapes: Our campus landscapes face several threats. The campus forest has substantial deferred maintenance and requires rejuvenation following the loss of a substantial number of trees due to pests and diseases, construction, and vandalism, coupled with insufficient replanting. Climate change is further impacting campus tree and plant health due to higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, the spread of diseases, and growing misalignment in predator-food relationships. Simultaneously, growth in our built environment has reduced pervious surfaces and fragmented natural landscapes that provide food, shelter and nesting spaces for wildlife, resulting in a loss of biodiversity. We have, therefore, identified three landscape projects to support our Grounds Team in addressing these challenges:

  • Restoration of the landscaping near Hopkins Hall and Schapiro Hall by removing invasive species and planting native, drought tolerant, biodiversity-friendly species. This project is expected to reduce the need for pesticides and fossil fuel use for trimming and pruning, improve habitat for pollinators and other species, reduce the need for maintenance and operational costs after plant establishment, and create opportunities for more inviting educational outdoor spaces and positive first impressions for visitors to the college.
  • Investments will also be made in hedgerow maintenance, which are among the least recognized and yet environmentally valuable landscape features on campus. Hedgerows store a lot of carbon because the soils are enhanced by wildlife scat and the natural process of leaf decay, and these soils support more microbial life. Soils rich in organic material are carbon sinks in addition to carbon stored in woody plants. In addition, hedgerows provide valuable species habitat and corridors and support natural separations between wildlife and humans. The investment will result in the restoration and upgrade of hedgerows in the areas of North House, McGinnis-Pilgrim House leading to Leigh House and Carlton House and the Brooks parking lot tree line from Brooks House to the infirmary including Gavitt House.
  • The third investment aims to increase tree planting to replenish the campus’ forest and ensure its long-term health and services, which include carbon storage, erosion control, shade and reduction of heat island effects, air quality improvements as well as mental and physical health benefits for our campus community and visitors.

Vehicle/Fleet Electrification: The Facilities Department has five club carts (CCs) that are all powered by gasoline engines and were bought in the late 1990s. They are used every day on campus by groundskeepers and others. They are now approaching the end of their useful lives and we plan to replace a few of them with electric models. This will reduce carbon and other tailpipe emissions while reducing noise and potentially reducing maintenance costs.

We hope to be able to direct remaining and potential future REC management funding to more projects to reduce carbon emissions and create additional campus sustainability benefits.