The Green Mountain State is considered the “greenest” by many publications and news outlets across the country. Who is “greenest” is a hard thing to quantify, and a dangerous thing to pat ourselves on the back for lest we become complacent and cease to push our selves to improve. There’s no question that we’ll have lots of room for improvement for years to come, but it’s Earth Week, and there’s no shame in taking a moment to express gratitude that we live in a place where communities and companies regularly consider their impact on the earth. Here are a few of the environmental programs and initiatives we can be proud of…
NET ZERO CITY - The city of Burlington intends to achieve a net-zero energy goal by 2030 and announced this month that they are currently on track to hit it. The city was already the first in the country to make the leap to 100% renewable energy with the McNeil generating station being powered by biomass rather than fossil fuels. Among other initiatives designed to help meet the 2030 goal are expanded bike lanes, building out EV charging infrastructure, and providing incentives for purchases of energy-efficient appliances and building weatherization. Add to this the pending connection to New York and (hopefully) Montréal by Amtrak and the recent progress in electric aviation from our very own Beta Technologies and getting here via more sustainable transportation options could soon be a reality.
THE NEXT GENERATION - For decades now, Vermont’s entrepreneurs have been incorporating sustainability as they build their businesses from the ground up. Ever since Ben & Jerry started scooping out of a former gas station at the corner of College & St. Paul and later developed their triple bottom line of people, planet, profit, Vermont businesses looked at mitigating their environmental impact as just plain good business. The University of Vermont is helping to continue that tradition and ensuring that the next generation of leaders is doing the exact same thing. UVM’s sustainable innovation MBA program has been ranked number one in the country for the last three years running.
LOCAL FIRST - If you are what you eat, then many Vermonters are something out of their neighbor’s garden. It’s hard to throw a rock without hitting a farmer’s market during the summer around here. There’s no better way to get the best local produce, baked goods, and meat (and sometimes ice cream and root beer) than to put a farmer’s market on your schedule. After the taste, the second best thing about them is that eating local means less packaging and less transportation which, of course, means less trash and carbon emissions. Add to this the economic benefits of buying local and the concept of sustainability starts to take on a whole new dimension.
BUSINESS = COMMUNITY - Living in Vermont let’s us live close to natural world on a daily basis. And for a small place, Greater Burlington is packed to the gills with businesses and organizations that are making a big difference in shaping how we address the climate crisis and more. We mentioned Ben & Jerry’s, a company that has taken hammer, tongs, and ice cream scoopers to the concept of what a corporation is and what it should work for. Seventh Generation has pioneered the production of environmentally sensitive consumer products from dish soap to trash bags to diapers. New kid on the block, Beta Technologies, is on the cutting edge of electric aviation, working to alter the way we fly and remove fossil fuels from the equation. And that’s really just a start. For example, 1% for the Planet calls Burlington home, Bluestone Life is built around the idea that protecting your loved ones’ futures also means protecting the planet they’ll be living on, while Native Energy has been providing carbon offsets and developing customized sustainability solutions for corporations across the country and around the world for twenty years. Hula Lakeside has incorporated two 500-kilowatt solar arrays on their two newly renovated buildings, producing roughly 1 million kilowatt-hours per year! All great examples of how Vermont’s corporations incorporate environmental stewardship into their DNA from the ground up.
All of these factors combine to put Burlington and Vermont at the forefront of the cities and states that are working to address our impact on our increasingly fragile planet. They also make us incredibly proud to call this place home. Now that we’ve had our moment to reflect, let’s dig in and get back to work!