End of Year Reflection

23 May 2023

What a great year for Climate Action at Carleton! In February 2023, the Board of Trustees voted to divest, eliminating all direct holdings of fossil fuel companies. During the same term, the Sustainability Working Group launched to update our Climate Action Plan with a strategy for accelerating carbon neutrality and a whole institution approach to sustainability! We have met with more than 20 offices and sought input from faculty broadly about collaborative and curricular interests. There is a lot of enthusiasm for place-based education, interdisciplinary collaboration and learning, and engaging Indigenous knowledge, history and culture, and solutions. Many would be excited to see Environmental Studies continue to grow and there could be additional opportunities that are STEM or humanities-specific or thematic!

Our campus contributes to downstream climate resilience and who and how we engage for change together impacts real sustainability, equity and justice outcomes directly, and as students continue their next steps taking what they have learned into new places. We also strengthen collaboration through the networks we engage, such as our local partnerships through the Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE), efforts like Public Works, and the national sustainability projects conducted by SERC. I’m excited to work with many to plan how we build progressive capacity around the next sustainability goals we set together.

As we end spring term, I wanted to take a moment to give a special shout out to the senior class leaders in the Sustainability Office. Seniors in the STA-ffice include: Simran Kadam, Beck Woollen and Jeremy Fleishhacker.

Left to right: Beck Woollen, Simran Kadam, Eli Watt, Jeremy Fleishhacker and Tony Ni at the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year.
Beck, Simran, Eli, Jeremy and Tony at the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year.

They have been instrumental in getting this big strategic work underway and keeping the office running day to day. Some examples of their work include:

  • Coordinating Climate Action Week with offices across campus.
  • Leading geothermal and wind turbine tours, including holding tours in collaboration with dozens of partners for Northfield Earth Day.
  • Identifying energy retrofit projects to reduce our emissions.
  • Supporting food culture/climate change programming and food decisions that promote equity and sustainability.
  • Developing a model of the district energy geothermal system that highlights how heat moves through the system.
  • Collaborating with the CCCE on Lighten Up via “Dorm Storm” to get bags out for donations.
  • Developing a food recovery offset process that is undergoing certification with Second Nature for us nationally across college campuses.
  • Crafting a manual to guide future farm improvements that articulates specific mentoring and resource needs for success.
  • Hosting an Energy Justice event to highlight the intersection between energy decision-making and housing affordability and access with state organizations and frontline experts.
  • Conducting research and model finding for campus Climate Action Plans to incorporate ideas for new educational experiences and adaptation and resilience planning.

Most of all, I appreciate their thoughtfulness and commitment to doing work that makes a difference. I will miss them, and I thank them for showing me the ropes of sustainability at Carleton. Working with you all is truly joyful and gives me great hope about our capacity for climate action into the future!


Sarah Fortner