Students have their voice heard for our Climate Action Plan

10 November 2010

It was a dark and stormy night when, after hours of debate on the pros and cons of becoming a signatory of the Presidential Climate Commitment, President Oden said with both exasperation and authority, “Let’s just sign the damn thing!”

This is how Carleton students like to remember the day Carleton made the American Colleges and Universities Presidential Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Although this may be a slight dramatization, the reality is in the spring of 2007 Carleton became one of the first schools to commit to making and implementing a plan for achieving carbon neutrality.

In order to fight the procrastination that seems to be viral on college campuses, the ACUPCC requires the submission of a Green House Gas inventory and a comprehensive Climate Action Plan within 2 years. After obtaining a brief extension (even colleges need them sometimes), Carleton has taken the vital step of hiring the consulting firm Energy Strategies in conjunction with the engineering firm AEI to develop a Climate Action Plan.

The consultants along with a steering committee of faculty, staff, trustees, and students have been meeting on campus throughout the fall and expect to have a draft ready by January 2010. In order to allow for easy input from those affected most by these decisions, the students, the steering committee decided to host a town hall style dinner at which people from all levels of sustainability interests would be able to eat and share their views.

Sustainability Assistants and the consultants sat at the tables in order to facilitate discussion and record the students input. After a brief group presentation on the background of the ACUPCC, individual tables set off discussing how important sustainability is to students here and what they would and would not be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve carbon neutrality. The 125 students in attendance generated mountains of ideas and opinions which have been complied into an 11 page document. Unsurprisingly, the wide range of people attracted did not reach a strong consensus. The groups generated a broad range of ideas on how to achieve carbon neutrality, ranging from shorter showers and ditching their minifridge to eating two vegetarian meals a day. Despite the diversity in replies, all of the groups expressed the idea that education should always be Carleton’s first priority, but as long as that is not being compromised sustainability should a priority.