This week, the Carleton Sustainability Office hosted the school’s annual CAW, a week-long series of events and initiatives intended to increase student awareness of pressing issues related to climate and the environment.
Along with the Sustainability Office, Environmental Carls Organized (ECO), the Environmental Advisory Committee and Environmental Studies Department, among others, helped organize the week.
“The short-term goals are to inform students and faculty about what we do at Carleton regarding the intersection of climate, water, waste and so on,” said ECO member Randa Larsen ’19. “I think if we can at least make people aware of the successes and challenges this campus experiences we will have done our job. It would be even better if we got more students actively involved in fixing issues still present on our campus, but at least making sure everyone is aware and informed is definitely the first step.”
Emma Leither ’20, a Sustainability Assistant for the Sustainability Office, added that one of the goals of each Climate Action Week is to encourage participation from students not previously involved with campus sustainability efforts.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the crazy schedule of Carleton,” Leither added, “but we really want students to step back and realize climate is such an important topic and that we can all do something about it.”
Key CAW events included Saturday’s Kick-Off Festival, Wednesday’s Water Trivia Night and tonight’s Downstream Film Festival from 7 to 10 p.m.
On Monday, the College also hosted Dr. Mary Heskel, Assistant Professor of Biology at Macalester College, for a Weitz Center lecture titled “Will Plants Save Us From Climate Change?”
Earlier this year, Governor Mark Dayton declared this year as a “Year of Water Action,” which is one of the reasons that this year’s CAW is water-themed.
“CAW this year piggy-backed on the Year of Water so many of our events are water-themed and in partnership with local groups like the Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP),” said Martha Larson, Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability.
The CRWP is a Northfield-based environmental nonprofit dedicated to preserving the quality of the Cannon River watershed. They helped organize CAW and participated in events such as Monday’s State of the Cannon Address, in which CRWP staff spoke in the Weitz Center about the state of the Cannon River.
This week’s opening event had about 50 people in attendance, according to Larson. On Tuesday, a water policy panel brought together Carleton community members, local water advocates, City representatives, and State representatives. Panelists were Mary Savina, Professor of Geology; Kristy Pursell, CRWP Executive Director; Bruce Morlan, water subcommittee chair of the Northfield Climate Action Plan Advisory Board; and a representative of state agencies working on water quality issues.
Beyond the day-to-day happenings, CAW featured two larger events: the Water Challenge and an effort to lower the impact of dining halls. The Water Challenge is a competition among residence halls to reduce their water consumption in order to win an ice cream party. The latter is a general awareness initiative to get students to refrain from using trays in dining halls, which has been shown to reduce the amount of food waste created.
One of the most significant Climate Action Week events will be Saturday’s Day without Cups, a breakfast hours—only awareness effort during which disposable cups will be removed from the dining halls.
“In terms of long-term goals, I think we really just want to make institutional changes that can benefit the lives of future Carls,” Larsen said. “Getting plastic water bottles banned from campus is an ongoing issue, cup usage in the dining halls should be reduced, more discussion on [Bon Appétit’s] product sourcing, andother topics are changes that could definitely be made and are achievable.
“They’re difficult goals to meet, but if CAW keeps on informing people and getting more human power behind the movement, we can achieve these long-term goals.”
David Roizin ’20, one of the leaders of ECO, added that a long-term goal of his is to see more cooperation between Carleton and partners such as the CRWP, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Climate Action Plan Advisory Board of the Northfield City Council.
“We all recognize the ‘Carleton Bubble,’ but even within Carleton it can feel like we’re cloistered to our specific clubs, departments, and interests,” Roizin said. “Climate Action Week is an opportunity to make the connections beyond what we normally would, either within environmentalism at Carleton or for people to learn and get engaged with it for the first time. As Carleton and the City of Northfield move forward with their respective Climate Action Plans, both groups want as much input as possible.
“It’s an exciting time to get involved, no matter what you’re interested in.”
A full list of CAW events and programming can be found on Carleton’s Office of Sustainability website.