Fulfilling Smith College’s promise to be carbon neutral by 2030

Letters to the Community
May 2, 2022

Dear students, staff, faculty, and alums,

The board of trustees at Smith College has approved a bold plan that will enable the college to become carbon neutral by 2030 by converting our heating and cooling systems from fossil fuels to electrically powered geothermal energy. I am grateful to the board for their visionary work in addressing climate change—one of today’s most complex, urgent problems.

With this project, Smith will be one of only a handful schools to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, with minimal use of offsets, through the near elimination of the campus’s fossil fuel combustion. The college will benefit from this conversion in other ways as well: we will reduce the college’s water consumption by more than ten percent, add air conditioning to 20 buildings on campus and reduce operating costs for the college.

This effort is the result of years of work by many members of the Smith community: the Study Group on Climate Change, who thoughtfully articulated the issues around human-caused global warming in their 2017 action plan; faculty who incorporated the study of climate change into their teaching and scholarly work; student researchers who studied the future of energy consumption at Smith; and staff who carefully examined issues pertaining to this project and educated the community through meetings, panels and other events. The Smith Geothermal Energy Project is truly an example of the campus as a classroom.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the members of the District Energy Working Group: Trustees Alison Overseth ’80, Madeleine Morgan Fackler ’80, Marcia MacHarg ’70 and Adrianne Todman ’91; students Sally Robson ’22 and Lucy Metz ’22; staff members David DeSwert, Jim Gray, Denise Wingate Materre ’74, Stacey Schmeidel and Dano Weisbord; and professors Denise McKahn, Susan Sayre and Alex Barron. Their work resulted in the analyses that informed the board’s historic decision.

Smith has a moral imperative to do its part in mitigating the devastating effects of climate change on our planet. I am extraordinarily pleased that the college is in a position to be able to take this significant step toward substantially reducing our carbon footprint, and I look forward to continuing our important work together on this project.


Kathleen McCartney