Green Mountain College has become the second higher education institution in Vermont to commit to divestment from fossil fuels. College trustees agreed at their meeting Friday to withdraw investments from 200 publicly traded companies holding coal, oil and gas reserves. The investments are part of the school’s endowment portfolio, which is valued at about $3.4 million.
Sterling College trustees voted at their winter meeting to divest from fossil fuel holdings in that school’s $960,000 endowment. Students at the University of Vermont and Middlebury College have mounted divestment campaigns that await possible action by trustees. The divestment issue has also been raised at St. Michael’s, Goddard and Marlboro colleges.
Three other colleges in New England have also divested: Hampshire College, in Massachusetts; and Unity College and College of the Atlantic, in Maine.
“We see this as another step in an ongoing effort to connect our investment decisions with our ideals,” said Paul Fonteyn, president o f Green Mountain College, in a news release. “Investing endowment funds on the basis of social, economic and environmental criteria is one of the ways Green Mountain College expresses its values.”
The divestment campaign was a collaboration of a student group, Divest GMC, and the administration, and featured a teach-in. In 2010, trustees invested 15 percent of the endowment in a portfolio of ecologically responsible companies. The college also switched from fuel oil to wood chips as a primary heating source with installation of a new biomass plant.
The action won praise from Bill McKibben, scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College and a leader in 350.org, a national advocacy group that seeks to build support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m delighted Green Mountain College has taken a leadership role in this important issue,” McKibben said in the news release. “GMC has long had a great reputation for environmental studies. Now they’ve demonstrated that it’s a core part of their values. What leadership!”