Ira Allen Chapel on University Row on the University of Vermont campus on June 6, 2019. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The University of Vermont unveiled a plan on Tuesday to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

It calls for stepping up investments in renewable energy, improving the efficiency of buildings and reducing the size of the school’s vehicle fleet by 10% by 2030, as well as switching all light-duty vehicles to electric by 2040. 

The university also announced it will partner with Vermont Gas Systems to explore geothermal energy sites on campus, which will start with test wells.

In a press release announcing the school’s first “carbon sustainability plan,” President Suresh Garimella said the document “sets a number of important new goals — carbon neutrality by 2030 being chief among them — coupled with strategies for achieving them.”

UVM said it also aims to buy 25% more Vermont-grown food by 2030. Other goals listed in the plan extend to research programs and academics, which Garimella described in his introduction as a “living lab” that could help by “creating new knowledge to further humanity’s responsible stewardship of the planet.”

In addition to the goal of carbon neutrality, the university plans to drop its greenhouse gas emissions to 60% below 2007 levels by next year. Both the near and far-term goals include purchasing carbon offsets, which the plan said will come locally from the Vermont Land Trust. 

The local offsets will allow “rural Vermont landowners to better manage forest land that will sequester more carbon,” Garimella said.

“Buying local carbon credits is meaningful to us — it’s a critical strategy in a suite of solutions that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” UVM Sustainability Director Elizabeth Palchak said in the press release. Palchak led the group that developed the sustainability plan which was made up of 16 faculty, staff and students.

The plan will be revised every five years and a new leadership committee will report on its progress, according to the university. 

Eleven higher education institutions, including Middlebury College, have achieved carbon neutrality, but many more have committed to doing so, according to Second Nature, a nonprofit that helps schools with climate goals.

VTDigger's northwest and substance use disorder reporter.