Earth Day Recognition!
April 22, 2019
Dear Unity College Community,
This morning, the mist was alive with the sounds and scent of a Maine spring, a perfect start to this Earth Day. As America’s Environmental College, we are all committed to the future — of this College, of our community, of our nation, and of our environment. For us, every day is Earth Day.
While I believe we celebrate this day throughout the year as the living manifestation of our mission, I wanted to take a few moments to consider the myriad ways in which our amazing students, faculty, staff, and alums are working to solve the problems of today and seek answers to the problems of the future. We do this by creating compelling and relevant curriculum for our students, by engaging in important and timely projects to address real-world problems, and by building a model of higher education that will remain relevant far into the future.
I am proud and honored to be the President of Unity College, an institution that sends out a new group of environmental citizens into the world each year. Through our curriculum, which uses sustainability science as its framework, each graduate leaves here fully prepared to take on the challenges ahead. While we should all take a moment every so often to celebrate our successes, Earth Day gives us a chance to pause and reflect on the many steps that Unity College has taken to create a more sustainable world:
While it is impossible to recall all the wonderful work students, faculty, and staff contributions, I thought I would list a few highlights in no particular order!:
- In 2012, Unity College became the first college in the United States to divest our portfolio’s from companies that produce fossil fuels. Since then, many other colleges have followed our lead.
- In 2011, we introduced the community to TerraHaus, which was the first residential hall in the country built to the Passive House standard. It is very well insulated, almost airtight, and is heated primarily using passive solar gain. We also were the first in the nation to construct a “net-zero” president’s residence hall, Unity House, which earned LEED Platinum certification. In addition to that, the last four buildings Unity College constructed operate without fossil fuels!
- In 1979, Jimmy Carter installed 32 solar panels on The White House. In 1986, they had been removed, and quickly forgotten. Unity College acquired the panels, refurbished them, and used them until 2010, when they reached their useful lifespan. Several Unity College students joined author and environmentalist Bill McKibben on a trip to the White House to encourage President Obama to put solar panels back on The White House, which he eventually did.
- We have expanded our car charging stations threefold, and continually work to enhance the sustainability of our residence halls and office spaces. In an effort to encourage ride-sharing, as we have broadened our classroom to the UCCA, McKay Farm and Research Station, and Sky Lodge in the Moose River Valley, we created U-Go, which reduces our carbon footprint while traveling all across the state.
- In 2017, our Dining Services team received the National Association of College and University Food Services’ overall grand prize for their efforts in diverting 33.75 tons of organic waste from landfills between August 2016 and May 2017. Dining Services was also named a Gulf of Maine Research Institute Champion, giving all of us more fresh, local, and sustainable seafood options. Our Dining Services team continues to astound me with their efforts in keeping our food local, healthy, and delicious.
- While I’m on the subject of food, it always bears repeating that McKay Farm is MOFGA certified!
- We have implemented a Sustainability Fund, which is a revolving fund for projects that reduce resources and pay for themselves for five years. Senior staff recently allocated $100,000 from the fund for a lighting replacement project that will convert more than half of the lights at the flagship to LED.
- Unity College has achieved a Gold rating from STARS, meaning that we have been recognized as one of the schools leading the nation in energy and investment.
- For the past two years, Unity College has been one of only six host sites for the Maine Partnership of Environmental Stewardship, which supports energy efficiency and home weatherization in all the communities in which we are based. The response to these initiatives has been incredible thus far.
- We recently adopted a College-wide green cleaning policy, which ensures the health and safety of building occupants and the custodians who work in our buildings.
- In addition to all of this, our students and faculty have done some outstanding work, and you continue to do so. Projects like monitoring the water quality of Unity Pond, working alongside The American Chestnut Foundation to help restore the American chestnut, monitoring wood turtles which are a threatened species, reducing plastic use at one of the local restaurants, and the list could go on and on.None of this would be possible, however, without every single one of you. So, on this Earth Day, more than anything, I want to thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. Together, we are making a difference. Happy Earth Day.
Dr. Melik Peter Khoury