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Taking Action on Climate Change

When College of the Atlantic President, David Hale, committed COA to becoming the nation’s first carbon-neutral campus, Davis UWC Scholar Oliver Bruce was among those who set to work.

The college was looking to invest in carbon offsets — initiatives that would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in amounts equal to COA’s CO2 emissions. For a course on business strategy, Oliver, a New Zealand native who attended Pearson UWC in Canada, set out with a fellow student to make an independent study of the carbon-offset market.

We wrote a study that looked at how the market works, its problems and inefficiencies, the environmental impacts, and the system in which offsets are being generated and traded,” Oliver recalls. Concluding that conservation and biogas are the best available options for offset, students launched into a nine-week intensive study of whether biogas feedstocks — such as cow manure, or organic waste such as food from restaurants, hospitals, or colleges — might economically be used to generate electricity and heat, instead of decomposing and creating CO2.

I was the outreach guy,” says Oliver. “I was the guy who did market research, and made contact with a lot of the people who are in the market. This stuff just gets me excited!”

Oliver’s intellectual curiosity and infectious enthusiasm was key to our work,” says Jay McNally, who co-taught the strategy course that joined the effort to fulfill COA’s pledge. “He focuses on tough questions, which he communicates well to the college community.”

Last December, COA announced that it had indeed become the first U.S. college to achieve carbon neutrality. The college offset 15 months of carbon emissions, totaling 2,488 tons, by investing $25,000 in a greenhouse-gas reduction project in Portland, Oregon.

Also in December, Oliver Bruce moved on to another independent study, this time in Guatemala. He worked on a documentary film depicting the different ways that “fairness” is brought into the production of coffee.

"My hope is to produce a film that can be used to educate consumers about the best ways they can use their dollars to aid coffee producers,” Oliver wrote from Central America.