Location: Facilities Conference Room

Time: 8:30 am

Present Martha Larson, Gina Hatch, Jake Kramer

Absent Amy Sillanpa, Steve Spehn, Tsegaye Nega, Bereket Haileab, Justin London, Zander Deetz, Morgan Richmond, Sarah Goldman, Brent Murcia (secretary)

Secretary: Martha Larson

I.  2015 Stewsie Award Nominations

The EAC received two student nominees and three faculty /staff nominees.   Votes were cast by all attendees but due to lack of a quorum at the meeting, nominations will be distributed to the remainder of the committee for an email vote.


II.  Update on Community Solar

Since the EAC’s December discussion of community solar and recommendation to participate in nearby projects, Carleton has been presented with multiple additional community solar offers from various developers.  Some developers require subscribers to sign into a portfolio of projects, and some or all of those projects would be outside the immediate Northfield area (eg. Castle Rock, Cannon Falls, or closer to the Twin Cities).  Committee members weighed the benefits of taking the best financial offer against those of close project proximity to the Carleton campus.  Although project visibility and accessibility are important, members observed that higher financial payback could produce more direct benefits for Carleton’s campus sustainability programs.  Other projects may still be built nearby, so there will likely be opportunities to learn from solar sites in our area even if Carleton participates in projects that are further away.  Note: Carleton can only subscribe to projects in Rice, or neighboring, MN counties. 


III.  External Sustainability Rankings

EAC members discussed the current array of external ranking and benchmarking systems created to compare colleges and universities on their commitment and efforts to further campus sustainability.  AASHE STARS provides a master data repository from which other groups such as the Princeton Review Green Schools Guide and the Sierra Club Cool Schools report collect their data.  STARS is a 227-page survey that takes a large amount of sustainability office time and effort to complete.  Many of the categories address issues such as employee satisfaction, employee compensation, college governance, etc. that aren’t core to greenhouse gas reductions or sustainability education. 

Carleton generally achieves an average score in external rankings, which leads members to question how those rankings are developed and whether they accurately represent Carleton’s sustainability programs relative to those of other small, undergraduate, liberal arts institutions.  Committee members suggested that Carleton wait to update our AASHE STARS survey for 2015 until we dissect how we rank against other schools, where and why our lower scores occur, and what – if anything – we should do to target higher rankings.  Student EAC members noted that externally published college rankings did influence their college evaluations, and a high ranking in green school guides could encourage more future student environmental leaders to choose Carleton over other schools.  (Note: review of most recent Sierra Club Green Schools data shows Carleton at #62 out of 164 schools.)

Next Steps on this topic include:

  • St. Olaf’s EAC is currently evaluating how they will participate in external rankings and determining what their core internal benchmarking metrics will be.  We will learn from their discussions at a future spring term “mixer” between Carleton and St. Olaf env. committees.
  • Committee members asked co-chairs Tsegaye and Martha to develop a scope and time proposal for an EAC task force or sub-committee to look deeper into our current rankings.

IV.  EAC Involvement in Climate Action Plan Initiatives

EAC member, Sarah Goldman, suggested at our last meeting that the EAC evaluate how to be more involved in facilitating specific recommended actions in the Carleton Climate Action Plan.  Co-chair, Martha Larson, said this could span a range of commitment level from simply helping to promote events such as Climate Action Week or Bike to Work Week, to researching the feasibility and campus appetite for purchasing air travel carbon offsets, to organizing and implementing behavior change / energy conservation programs.  EAC members generally agreed that the EAC should take a more pro-active approach to campus sustainability rather than simply reviewing and reacting to issues as they come up.  Members noted that more continuous engagement in specific initiatives could also help keep the committee more well-informed and less reactive.  They also noted a desire to increase campus awareness of the EAC and Carleton’s sustainability objectives.  Co-chair, Martha Larson, will bring a list of potential ideas for EAC involvement to the next meeting.