Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2019

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


Because of the impact that educational institutions have on the intellect of the American youth, universities play a crucial role in our nation’s path towards sustainability because of their ability to guide educational focus toward the well-being of the environment. Through a unified movement among these institutions called the “University Greening Movement”, or UGM, campuses are utilizing current technological breakthroughs to their advantage by implementing them into the structures and foundations of their campuses to reduce and even eliminate carbon emissions. However, as monumental as these technological advancements and this movement has been, the question arises of whether or not this is effective enough to reach carbon neutrality in the battle to lower greenhouse emissions. Is carbon neutrality enough to avert a climate crisis? Or will we need universities to set an even higher standard and reach a state of carbon negativity? Using economics, politics, technology, and design as perspectives for discussion, I will investigate the question of whether or not universities that are taking part in the UGM are being ambitious enough in their attempts to reach carbon neutrality. I discuss the case study of Middlebury College and its feat of creating a carbon neutral campus. In chapter 1, I talk about the history of greenhouse gasses and their fluctuation throughout history up to the present. I also discuss the differences between carbon neutrality and carbon negativity. Chapter 2 discusses the UGM and the general history of it. It also delves into how the emergence of the problem of climate change has affected the culture of universities. Chapter 3 delves into how the UGM affects university politics and the structure of it. It also talks about the impact that the UGM has on university finance and the student body as a result of the changing politics. In chapter 4, I discuss the implementation of green technologies, including green buildings and campus design, and how they benefit the university. In the final chapter, I discuss the steps that can be taken to become carbon neutral on the university campus and related ways that they can become more sustainable as a whole.