Maroon, gold and green:
Norwich shows its colors © Feb. 26, 2007 Norwich University Office of Communications

Picture of Norwich's power plant.

photo by Jay Ericson Norwich’s power plant churning out energy for The Hill.

Although maroon and gold may still be the reigning colors up on The Hill, there's a case to be made that Norwich actually has a third school color: green.

Courtesy of Gov. James Douglas, the University has earned itself a spot on a high–profile list — the governor’s list of institutions that provide environmental engineering degrees in Vermont. During his State of the State address, Douglas voiced his goal of making Vermont the home of the new “Green Valley,” a place he hopes the world will turn to for help in solving looming environmental problems. Douglas specifically mentioned Norwich as a key player in this plan. stating that the University's Civil and Environmental Engineering program can potentially draw more green-focused businesses to the state and increase the availability of professionals to staff those firms with its graduates.

As the the first university in the country to offer students a bona fide engineering program and with a recent top 10 percent in the nation ranking for energy efficiency on its campus, it would seem Norwich is poised to take the lead on green issues affecting the state, the nation and the world. And it's the reputation of The David Crawford School of Engineering’s environmental engineering program that caught the eyes of state official’s.

“We felt so strongly that…Norwich needed to be involved because it has a great environmental engineering program,” said Kevin Dorn, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. “We have to have a robust and well-connected engineering community. They are the spokes of the wheel, the hub of the Green Valley Initiative.”

Norwich's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was created in the 1970s. Since then, the department has produced “hundreds of alumni that are environmental engineers,” said Interim Engineering Division Head Eugene Sevi.

Phil Susmann, vice president of technology and strategic partnerships, echoed Sevi’s thoughts and noted the impact the progam has had on Vermont, estimating that “half of the [environmental engineering] students end up in Vermont contributing to the local economy and knowledge power of the region.”

Along with this, Norwich also works to involve current students in environmental projects happening throughout the state. Sevi noted that two different senior projects in the past two semesters have focused on alleviating flooding in neighboring Roxbury. Both projects, he said, involved students working with the community to understand the flooding problems in the town and to deal with mitigation issues.

“We are educating men and women with engineering and environmental control expertise and we also have a faculty that can participate with both governmental and non-governmental organizations in completing projects,” Sevi said of the University’s role in the Green Valley.

Another way in which the University participates in cultivating Vermont's green economy is through its relationship with the Vermont Environmental Consortium (VEC). The consortium is a group of environmental businesses that fosters the growth and development of other green businesses in the state. Norwich serves as the host institution for VEC, providing resources to the organization. The partnership between the two reflects “a natural synergy between Norwich as an educational institution and Norwich as a business.” Susmann said. “As a citizen in the larger community, the University is looking at larger issues of environmental impact and how we’re involved in the community.”

Dorn also recognized the importance of the Norwich–VEC alliance to the state. “Norwich has been very helpful in organizing businesses into an association,” he said, which makes it easier for the Governor to work with environmental firms that are already in existence.

Although the details are not yet ironed out, the VEC will have a role in the Green Valley plan. “This [environmental engineering] is the type of business that makes sense to build in Vermont to leverage the green-brand value of the state,” Susmann said. The organization represents many of the environmental businesses that are already a part of the state’s green economy, and it will likely be a key player in helping other businesses establish themselves and grow. And Norwich's students won't be forgotten as the VEC's role in the Green Valley becomes more clearly defined.

“We would like to be a gateway for students to network into the environmental business community in Vermont,” Susmann said. A primary goal of the VEC is to help students secure internships with businesses in the state. “It will be good for our students to have a vibrant environmental economy to provide internships and jobs.”

Not only has Norwich topped the Governor’s list, the University was also rated in the top 10 percent of energy efficient campuses in the country by the Association of Physical Plant Administrators.

Picture of Norwich's power plant.

photo by Jay Ericson Norwich’s power plant generates roughly half of the University’s energy needs during winter months.

For the past 20 years, the physical plant at Norwich University has been working to green the campus. Dave Magida, Chief Administrative Officer, recalled that when he began working at the school two decades ago, “the Trustees said that any money we saved in energy could be used by the department for projects on campus.” This, he said, “enabled the physical plant to undertake projects we would not have been able to undertake without that money.” The backdrop for that decision was the energy crisis of the 70s and 80s, but the school has retained that mindset throughout the past decades. “The institution is committed,” Magida said, “from the Trustees on down.”

Examples of this commitment abound, but Magida described the efforts as “transparent to the users of the building. They don’t even know what’s going on.” Most buildings on campus have automatic building controls, meaning that lights and air conditioning will go off when rooms aren’t in use. Norwich also prides itself on recycling as much as possible. “We recycle a vast majority of cardboard, metal, packaging, and paper in administrative areas,” Magida said. “Zero waste from the Harmon Hall demolition, except for the hazardous materials, went into the waste stream. It was either recycled or re-used.”

And there are other “green” practices occurring on The Hill as well. All cleaning and construction supplies are water based, lawn treatments are organic, and the University also keeps grass and tree clippings out of the waste stream. “We do not put any yard waste in landfills,” Magida said. “It’s all put into a compost areas and left to naturally decompose.”

Norwich’s green complexion doesn’t end there either. “In winter, we produce more than half of our electricity,” said Magida. The physical plant boasts two co-generation plants that create energy from steam. “The more you conserve, the less you pollute and the more that you save.” he said. “And once you do something, you realize the benefits forever.”

Along with getting students involved in the green economy outside of the University, there is a desire to get students involved in making changes at the school. Maureen Hawes, an Americorps member who works in the Office of Volunteer Programs said she strives “to get other students involved in what they can do to help the environment on our campus. My role is to support Norwich's environmental initiatves by finding projects that can be done at Norwich.” One such project was last year’s Change a Light Challenge, in which students were encouraged “to change…lightbulbs in their dorms from incandescent bulbs to the more efficient CFLs.”

Although that was a successful initiative, Hawes said “it is sometimes hard to get peers interested when they already have a lot on their plates with school work, Corps responsibilities, and jobs.” Nonetheless, Hawes said she “plans on publicizing more projects and also possibly holding informative seminars to get students to be aware and perhaps involved as a result.”

On all fronts, Norwich is working to create a greener Vermont, from sending employees into the state’s Green Valley, to finding ways to lessen the University’s footprint. According to Dorn, the Green Valley plan “bodes well for the economic, environmental, and social well-being in the state.” And the same can be said of Norwich’s environmental initiatives.