La Plata, MD – The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) is leading the way in environmental sustainability as it transitions to a smaller, less gas-reliant fleet of vehicles. The college’s new Polaris GEM utility vehicles around the CSM campuses are set to eliminate the carbon dioxide equivalent of 42 trees. This move reduces the college’s carbon footprint, enhances on-campus safety, and lowers operating costs.

Credit: College of Southern Maryland

Dr. Bill Comey, Vice President of Operations and Planning at CSM, emphasized the college’s commitment to sustainability, stating, “We continually strive to improve our environmental performance by initiating projects and activities that further reduce our impact on the environment, and an electric and hybrid fleet makes a strong statement regarding the college’s commitment to environmental sustainability.”

Ronald Toward, the executive director of Facilities Management at CSM, revealed that transitioning to an electric fleet has been a topic of discussion for years. CSM is among the first community colleges in Maryland to take this step. In addition to the Polaris vehicles, CSM will soon acquire two E Transit vans and a pair of Ford Escape hybrid trucks for larger tasks on campus.

CSM proactively prepared for this transition by partnering with SMECO last year to install electronic vehicle charging stations across all campuses. Over the coming years, the college plans to phase out its current gas-powered fleet and replace it primarily with small electric utility vehicles while retaining a few full-sized vehicles for larger jobs.

The advantages of this transition extend beyond environmental benefits. By adopting a lease and maintenance program through Enterprise, CSM will enjoy a more predictable and cost-effective transportation plan. The smaller Polaris vehicles, with a maximum speed of 25 mph, are designed for road, sidewalk, and turf travel, ensuring enhanced pedestrian safety and access to areas on campus that larger trucks cannot reach.

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Toward explained, “We’re not just talking about gas; we’re also talking about insurance and other administrative costs because these vehicles don’t require the same licensing as full-size vehicles.” Moreover, this transition will foster a cultural shift among staff members, reducing the reliance on shared vehicles and the campus’s environmental footprint.

CSM has been a trailblazer in environmental sustainability among Maryland’s community colleges. The college holds multiple distinctions, such as being the first Bird Campus, a Bee Campus, and a Butterflies for a Better Bay participant. It also boasts four LEED-certified buildings, has saved over 90,000 water bottles from landfills through water filling stations, and actively participates in energy-saving initiatives like “Code Green” Fridays during summer months. Furthermore, several CSM’s Facilities Management team members recently earned Green Seal Certified Eco-Building Hygienists certificates.

Introducing the new electric vehicles is a highly visible symbol of CSM’s dedication to environmental sustainability. However, it is just one of many steps being taken to reduce the college’s carbon footprint toward revealed that Facilities Management is exploring drones for routine inspections, which would minimize energy consumption compared to traditional equipment. The college has also invested in preventative maintenance plans to reduce energy usage over time. Additionally, improvements are underway at the Prince Frederick Campus Garden to create an outdoor classroom and improve accessibility.

According to Toward, this transition marks only the beginning of CSM’s environmental sustainability efforts. The college remains committed to exploring new initiatives and practices to reduce its impact on the environment further.

For more information about environmental sustainability at CSM, please visit

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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