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This weekend's Living on Earth story on NPR stations about Hampshire's sustainability initiative unfortunately contained errors in reporting.
Here are the facts:
Hampshire's sustainability initiative is broad and reaches across our entire campus and operation. Currently our two highest-profile sustainability projects are:
One, we're planning to construct 19 acres of solar panels this year on our 840-acre campus (once the project is approved through our state, municipal, and private partners), with the goal of becoming the first US residential college to generate 100% of campus electricity needs on an annualized basis.
Living On Earth reported a "price tag" of $11 million for the solar conversion but the story was mistaken to suggest Hampshire bears any cost to construct 19 acres of solar arrays. In fact, Hampshire College has a power purchase agreement with SolarCity. They will finance the construction, and we supply the land and buy the electricity back from them at a rate less than half what we currently pay for conventional power. Based on our contract with SolarCity, we hope to save between $7 million and $10 million over the life of the 20-year contract.
Two, for our second major project, we'll soon open our new 17,000-square-foot R.W. Kern Center building constructed to the strictest green building standard in the world, the Living Building Challenge -- our goal is to have the building certified as one of fewer than 10 in the world to meet all criteria of the certification. Strangely, the Living on Earth story failed to mention this project. The building will produce its own power, harvest its own water, treat its own waste, and was built avoiding the use of toxic “red list” building materials.
The building's construction will cost just over $10 million and is being paid for completely by charitable donations.
Living On Earth mistakenly drew a connection between our sustainability initiative and our tuition. Since the Kern Center construction is funded entirely by philanthropic donations, and our campus conversion to solar is projected to earn us massive savings in energy costs, Living on Earth sent the wrong message about sustainability. In fact, being sustainable today is not only affordable but can be cost-effective.
Like many liberal arts colleges, we worry about the high cost of education, but in our case it isn't driven by sustainability, and our average student receives $40,087 in financial aid.
For more information, visit:
Hampshire College Tuition and Financial AidHampshire College Sustainability News Update