The University used 10 percent less energy this fiscal year and reduced its carbon footprint by about eight percent from last year, according to new University data released in a Nov. 1 email from President Ronald Liebowitz.

While these statistics represent a praiseworthy first step, the reduction by 10 percent is just a projection at the moment. Further, a pending emissions report could find different results, and the University will not know if this data indicates a reliable trend toward sustainability until future years with future data points.

That said, this board finds these sustainability developments encouraging. In addition to being ethical and political imperatives, preserving the environment requires energy independence, which is proven to save money. As Liebowitz noted, the new Climate Action Plan on campus “also translates into significant financial savings.” For a university in dire financial straits, energy independence represents a smart economic investment, as well.

The aforementioned task force that Liebowitz credits for our projected environmental friendliness was only established last year and represents a coalition of students, faculty and administrators aligned toward a common goal. Measurable positive effects from just one year’s worth of work serves as a positive testament to the University’s ability to improve itself when all of its constituents work together and share information openly. Liebowitz stressed the importance of this in his inaugural address on Thursday, and this news only confirms that assertion.

Liebowitz famously slashed Middlebury College’s carbon footprint in half as its president, so one can reasonably assume that this will remain a key issue throughout his presidency. And conflicts are imminent — Liebowitz has yet to announce a formal position on fossil fuel divestment, though he refused to divest Middlebury’s endowment during his tenure there. Despite this, the University should not allow spats over specifics and administrative power grabs to interfere with crucial environmental protection. We urge the University to continue developing and refining policies on this key issue, for the sake of ethics, economics, politics and campus unity.