Colorado Mountain College moves toward carbon neutrality Electric vehicle charging stations installed at six locations

What’s the quickest route to a carbon-neutral future? That’s the question driving Colorado Mountain College’s employees and sustainability students, who are seeking ways to reduce the college’s energy footprint now and into the years to come.

One answer: by way of the electric vehicle charging stations installed recently at five of the college’s campuses and its central administrative building. The charging stations were a joint project with the Colorado Energy Office, in an effort to reduce fossil fuel emissions across the state.

Carbondale-based CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region) helped the college apply for a Colorado Energy Office grant, which covered up to 80 percent of the installation costs. Since last spring, the college has installed electric vehicle charging stations at its campuses in Steamboat Springs, Rifle, Leadville, Breckenridge and Carbondale, as well as at the Central Services offices in downtown Glenwood Springs.

Shelley Kaup, energy coach and technology support for CLEER, said that the beauty of electric vehicles is that they both reduce emissions now and help shift the economy toward sustainable sources of energy in the future. “As the grid gets cleaner,” she said, “moving toward solar arrays and other alternative forms of energy, electric cars will get cleaner, too.”

The electric vehicle chargers selected for the college’s installations feature a standard J1772 outlet, compatible with nearly all electric cars. Each plug on these dual-plug chargers can recharge up to 25 miles of driving in one hour. Users are asked to plug into the charging station for two hours or less, so that multiple drivers can use it throughout the day. The charging station will be available for community use after hours.

The college’s charging station in Carbondale will be the finish line for the EV Rally of the Rockies, a three-legged road rally set for Friday, Oct. 3, celebrating the growing public car-charging network in western Colorado. Electric vehicles driven by CMC faculty, with the college’s Isaacson School for New Media students on board tweeting and capturing video, will start from Parachute and Vail. They’ll meet other EV drivers for a party in Carbondale from 4:30 to 6 p.m. that day.

Students in sustainability program help drive progress toward net-zero community

“After signing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2009, the college plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Pete Waller, collegewide director of facilities. “Installing these charging stations is only one part of the picture.”

One of the flagship programs at Colorado Mountain College is the Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies, and an influx of new minds entering the field are helping to drive innovations at the college. “We’re looking to our sustainability students to help create our long-term plan,” said Waller. “For them, it’s a chance to create a real-world impact.”

“Sustainability students focus on the integrated pursuit of environmental health, human fulfillment and economic vitality, without trading any one of these off for the others,” said Dr. Tina Evans, associate professor of sustainability studies at Colorado Mountain College and author of the book “Occupy Education: Living and Learning Sustainability.”

“They work toward creating a bright future for humanity within the bounds of a healthy and resilient natural world,” she said.

To that end, in April the college held its first-ever collegewide conference for students, staff and faculty, focused on sustainability. At the inaugural Sustainability Summit, seniors presented their final research projects. These projects focused on sustainable entrepreneurship, energy efficiency, civic engagement, international sustainable development, writing and publishing for sustainability, food system sustainability, natural history and more.

“Before we installed the chargers, at the sustainability conference we held a science- and ethics-based dialogue about the wisdom of investing in an electrical vehicle charging infrastructure,” said Adrian Fielder, CMC instructional chair in Carbondale.

Waller noted that so far the college’s efforts have largely focused on the installation of solar panels and geothermal exchange systems, as well as replacing aging lighting fixtures and heating and cooling systems with highly efficient systems. “These efforts all tie into a core value of sustainability for the college,” he said.

Already CMC has made improvements across the board in the energy efficiency of its campus buildings, and 25 of the largest structures are being monitored by CLEER’s Energy Navigator. The online monitoring system charts electrical usage, to help the college determine peak hours and achieve savings through strategic usage. The public can see the results at the Colorado EnergyNavigator.com or GarfieldEnergyNavigator.org websites.

For more information about the sustainability program at Colorado Mountain College, visit www.coloradomtn.edu.

Cutline for attached photo:

This electrical vehicle charging station at Colorado Mountain College’s campus in Steamboat Springs – one of six throughout the college’s district on the Western Slope – encourages eco-friendly electric car use. Drivers can plug in for up to two hours at the station in the parking lot.

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