Goal #6: A holistic commitment to sustainability will integrate campus operations with academic approaches to environmental studies and climate change, creating a living laboratory for environmental education

Carleton’s longstanding commitment to sustainability provides a strong foundation for future growth. We are geothermal pioneers, having been the first college in Minnesota and among just a handful nationally to transition to sustainable heating and cooling in 2021. Carleton also was the first college or university in the country to install a wind turbine in 2004, and we have decreased our energy usage by over 40 percent since 2018.

Sustainability and the environment are deeply ingrained in our curriculum and across interdisciplinary collaborations and scholarship. At a time when the climate crisis has never been more visible, Carleton is poised to assume a national leadership position in sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Action 16

Carleton will pursue a new carbon neutrality goal of 2025 and create a Sustainable Future Fund to build permanent support for ongoing sustainability efforts.

The College has made enormous progress in reducing carbon emissions on campus over the past decade. In its 2020–21 review of Carleton’s Climate Action Plan, the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) concluded that we are well positioned to deepen our sustainability efforts and accelerate our progress toward carbon neutrality. Setting an ambitious goal for achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 and comprehensively strengthening our efforts in sustainability reflects the urgency of the climate crisis and aligns with Carleton’s position as a leader by placing us among a small number of liberal arts colleges expected to reach this goal before 2030.

Recognizing that there are many dimensions to sustainability, the Sustainability Working Group is developing a plan to guide the College’s progress over the coming years, including exploring a path to eliminating our natural gas usage and greening our electricity within 10 years. Achieving carbon neutrality and the continued climate work that lies beyond will require full campus involvement in sustainability efforts, in which the College’s educational mission, curriculum, operations, and community activities and programs are coordinated in a unified and integrated approach. The Sustainable Future Fund will provide an opportunity for the community to help us achieve our ambitious goals in this area.

Action 17

We will seek to expand curricular offerings in sustainability across the curriculum and establish new endowed positions that support environmental studies and climate education.

Carleton faculty have long been committed to exploring the complex issues related to sustainability and the environment, as evidenced in the number of courses and contributing faculty in the environmental studies program. However, the environmental studies program has not been able to take full advantage of student interest and faculty expertise because the current staffing model relies heavily on ad hoc curricular contributions by affiliated faculty from other departments.

Recognizing that sustainability is deeply linked to questions of equity and justice, we are launching a search for a new senior hire in environmental justice who can also serve as director of the program. We may need additional hires in order to provide for leadership development and curricular innovation that matches Carleton’s institutional efforts in energy conservation and environmental sustainability. Creating additional positions with adequate research support in environmental studies, climate education, or related fields will enable us to strengthen and stabilize our academic commitment to sustainability.

Action 18

We will create a new Center for Sustainability to highlight our commitment and combine operational, academic, and civic engagement efforts.

By highlighting sustainability as a core value, the College will be able to create synergies between Environmental Studies, interdisciplinary studies, co-curricular engagement, research, and the work of the Cowling Arboretum. This nexus of opportunities will serve as a powerful model of the kind of engaged, interdisciplinary learning at which Carleton excels. This will also be a natural extension of existing work to conserve energy, invest in renewable energy, reduce waste, and decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

The temporary physical spaces of the Arboretum Office are no longer sufficient. Similarly, there is no common space for the environmental studies program to build community among the many participants across departments. Carleton’s recent consolidation of sustainability efforts in creating the Office of Sustainability is a first step in a direction that could be fully realized with a Center for Sustainability that could house all three offices/programs.

Goal 6 Metrics:

  • New Sustainability Working Group plan and report being developed by the Sustainability Working Group will set carbon reduction targets using Second Nature reporting database
  • Number of courses related to sustainability, climate, and environment (increase)