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The Carletonian

Forbes names Carleton one of ten greenest schools in the nation

<rlier this month, Forbes Magazine named Carleton one of the “Greenest” colleges in the nation. While a closer look at their measurement system cheapens the title, Carleton’s community seems to nod in agreement that Carleton is indeed committed to becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The article, titled “America’s Greenest Colleges,” applauds the nation’s colleges for confronting issues of carbon emissions, renewable energy and responsible investing. Explaining the ways various colleges are acting, Forbes names Maine’s College of the Atlantic, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Middlebury College, the University of Vermont, the University of Washington, New York University, and Oregon University as some of the leading green colleges in the nation. Forbes acknowledges the impossibility of ranking the colleges, but it lists some measurement on which it made its judgments. These included: the college’s grade on the “College Sustainability Report Card,” its place in the EPA’s green power rankings, and whether or not it had made a carbon neutral pledge.

Among the problems with rating a college’s environmental friendliness is that the measurement system focused on wealthy schools. Six of the ten colleges mentioned received exemplary scores from the “College Sustainability Report Card” which only looks at the schools who have one of the 200 largest endowments in the nation. Within the Report Card, grading also seems disfigured. Carleton’s neighboring college, St. Olaf, got a C- even though “they are doing the same things as we are,” said Robert Lamppa, Director of Energy Management and Senior Project Manager. One reason that St. Olaf did not get as good of a grade as Carleton was that it did not sign the President’s Climate Commitment.

The Report Card’s research methods also produce misleading results because the Report Card gathers most of its data by searching college websites, said Lamppa. Last year Carleton received a less than exemplary score because the Report Card could not find information about the school’s Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement on Carleton’s website.

Recent progress at Carleton that makes many community members optimistic includes one-stream recycling, compost, the sustainability revolving fund, the revitalization of the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee, the green referendum, and the planning for the new Leed Certified dorms.

Moreover, Carleton’s administration, staff, and students all seem to be on the same page and working together with regards to making the campus more sustainable. Facilities in particular are making great progress toward sustainability on campus, said Mathias Bell, a 5th year ENTS Educational Associate. He also said that “[Facilities does] things we don’t even know about,” like use Green Sealed products and organic fertilizer among other things. With regards to the student-administration relationship on green issues, in general, “students propose their concerns and the administration responds,” said Adam Smith, a 5th year ENTS Educational Associate. The Trustees have also made their support for sustainability clear. After so much campus conversation centered on sustainability, the Trustees feel that it is an important issue on campus that they believe in, and now “they want to see projects come forward,” said Lamppa.

Despite this support however, some students question the accuracy of Carleton’s green image. One concern is that there is no Environmental and Technology major at Carleton. Carleton “is an institution for education before it is an institution,” said Tess Dornfeld, head of SOPE. Carleton is supposed to be training students to deal with the problems of climate change and diminishing resources yet it does not support a major.

Another concern is the student lead projects such as the green roof and the CRIC that were abandoned due to lack of interest. With regards to the green roof, “No one has been taking care of it for the past year,” said Bell. The CRIC however is coming back after a year in hiatus.

Other students who did show interest worked 2 years to get a $10,000 grant from the EPA’s P3 to buy an Earth Tub. The tub was suppose to handle the schools compost, turn it into fertilizer and then give it to grounds to use. When the school enrolled in another compost system, the students “felt kind of co-oped…no one knew anything about where the decision came from,” said Tess.

Moreover, while the Trustees have given their support in the form of allocating $10 million of the $300 million raised this fall to sustainability, “we don’t know where it’s going. I’m not quite sure if the backing is there…Its hard to see how real the support is,” said Bessie Schwartz, Senate Environmental Advisory Committee Liaison.

Many of the student worries related to the administration’s commitment however may be able to be explained by bad communication. “It’s difficult to keep track of the students when [administration members] are getting 20 different [student] emails a day…they have their own jobs and duties,” said Bell.

Another explanation for miscommunication between students and the administration may stem from “students working on an entirely different time frame than colleges. Colleges are naturally static,” said Bell. Moreover, “students don’t always put the time in that’s necessary…[and] staff and administrators just want to make sure that students are going to be there the whole time with it.”

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