At Green Mountain College, we believe that sustainability and sustainable practices are multifaceted. In order to practice authentic sustainability, leaders need to implement sustainable initiatives in social, economic, and environmental spheres.

In this post, we’ll explore what this means in more detail and discuss how it can be achieved in a practical way.  

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People, Planet, and Profit: A Framework for Authentic Sustainability

Organizations that subscribe to the triple bottom line ideology base their progress on three separate dimensions: They believe that social responsibility, environmental care, and economic gain are each an important aspect of sustainability. Each sphere is significant, and balance among all of them is crucial to an organization’s success.

The goal of sustainability is to preserve and improve the quality of life, both now and for future generations.

How does the triple bottom line look in practice?

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At first glance, the triple bottom line might seem to be an impractical business strategy, given that corporate profit is only one of three goals.

In reality, however, following the dimensions of the triple bottom line can create a highly successful business or organization. According to Forbes, “A bottom line that focuses on more than just profit allows a company to make smart long-term decisions rather than dedicate every resource to increasing a number.”

Patagonia, the popular outdoor clothing company, is a prime example of a successful brand that prioritizes long-term goals over short-term profit. Patagonia is socially conscious, environmentally sustainable, and economically successful. In fact, this company’s financial success may stem in part from its social and environmental stances. Its strong ethics and radical authenticity have helped it to create a loyal and consistent customer base.

Green Mountain College lives this ideology through its initiatives in each sphere of the triple bottom line.

We offer an innovative and experiential educational experience that is deeply committed to environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

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Environmental sustainability is a significant part of life at GMC. Cerridwen Farm, an on-campus animal and vegetable farm run largely by students, is a great hands-on opportunity for students to put into practice concepts they learn in class. Likewise, the Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) program at GMC funds student projects that are focused on sustainability and energy efficiency.

GMC also fosters social change both on and off campus through its various Community Outreach and Service Learning programs. These include volunteer work at a senior center and at the local farmers market.

Our emphasis on environmental and social initiatives doesn’t mean that the economic sphere is any less of a priority, however. The practical economic aspects of sustainability are equally important.

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An example of a business-related, hands-on learning experience at GMC is our Coffee House. The GMC Coffee House is a student-run business venture on campus, and it provides students, faculty, staff, and community members with delicious beverages and food from 7 p.m. to midnight. (The grilled cheese sandwiches are the most popular nighttime treat! Garlic salt in the melted butter is the secret to their deliciousness!)  

At the Coffee House, a team of students serve the management roles of human resources (interviewing, hiring, and supervising the student workers), operations (managing the inventory, training the student employees, co-creating the menu), and marketing (co-creating the menu, scheduling and publicizing events).

Last year the Coffee House helped GMC become Fair Trade certified. Now all coffee, tea, and chocolate served at the Coffee House is Fair Trade certified, and the rest of the beverages and foods served are sourced locally (including from our own Cerridwen Farm!).

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Events held at the Coffee House vary from poetry readings and slams to open mic nights to game nights to stand up comedy performances to up-and-coming bands to student art shows.

The student team tracks the financial performance of the Coffee House and is responsible for determining how to reinvest the profits. Profits have been dedicated to revamping the decor, purchasing new equipment and upgrading the TV/video system and games.

GMC’s immersive learning environment encourages entrepreneurship and enables students to recognize and engage with real world challenges well before they even graduate, equipping them with the skills they’ll need to build successful careers in sustainability-related fields.

At GMC, we are committed to creating a better world.

Through the Sustainability 2020 initiative, an eight-year strategic plan, we have outlined our goals for the coming years. This initiative is focused on authentic sustainability: Our objective is to have a “net positive” impact in coming years in each of the three dimensions.

Our goals include developing new projects that will have a positive impact on the environment, increasing social initiatives with local communities, and encouraging entrepreneurial activity among students. We are committed to reaching authentic sustainability as outlined in this initiative, and we’re hopeful to see what we can achieve — with your help. 

If you're interested in learning more about Green Mountain College's sustainability-focused education, we hope you'll check out our website or come visit us!

Are you interested in learning more about how to pursue a degree that focuses on the importance of sustainability? Check out our new toolkit - The Benefits of a Sustainability- Focused Education - your trusted resource on how to make a difference through social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

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