Carleton College has recently formed a new Sustainability Working Group composed of faculty, students and staff. The SWG will replace the previous Environmental Advisory Committee, and the primary objective of the new Sustainability Working Group is to expand the college’s sustainability efforts. As dictated in the official charter, there are three principal goals. The first will be updating the Climate Action Plan with a revised date and specific aims for achieving carbon neutrality. The second goal is developing goals for strengthening academic sustainability efforts in collaboration with Carleton’s Environmental Studies Program and related offices like the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and the Arboretum. The last goal is reviewing campus sustainability efforts in light of the recently reconfigured Sustainability Office.
The Sustainability Working Group came about after the Environmental Advisory Committee undertook a year-long review of the 2011 Climate Action Plan over the course of twelve workshops beginning in the fall of 2021. Beck Woollen ‘23, a student member of the working group and former member of the EAC, said that by the end of the review “it was abundantly clear to members of the group that our 2011 CAP had become outdated.” Among the goals put forth in the 2011 Climate Action Plan, all had either been achieved, progressed towards significantly or ruled out completely. Additionally, the College had already successfully undertaken sustainability initiatives outside of the 2011 CAP, like implementing geothermal energy across campus.
In addition to working toward the charter’s goals, Woollen expanded on why the SWG replaced the EAC: “My understanding is that the SWG replaced the EAC because, whereas the EAC was an advisory committee, the SWG is more about doing the work now so that our call to action is clear.” Woollen also commented on President Byerly’s support for sustainability initiatives: “President Byerly has been a climate champion since coming to Carleton, and the SWG represents that. We’ll be writing a new CAP that is more ambitious, more expansive and that centers on environmental justice.”
Carleton has made rapid progress in sustainability since 2011. The original CAP targeted 2050 as a carbon neutrality deadline, but, by 2022, Carleton had already reduced carbon emissions 54% compared to the 2008 level. Because of this success and Byerly’s support, the SWG has the capacity to continue working towards not just carbon neutrality but also social goals such as resilience, community-focused collaborations and environmental justice.
The SWG is co-chaired by Director of Sustainability Sarah Fortner and EAC co-chair and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Economics Aaron Swoboda ‘01. Faculty members are Assistant Professor of Mathematics Kate Meyer ‘09 and Professor of Physics Arjendu Pattanayak. Staff members are Puzak Family Director of the Cowling Arboretum and Senior Lecturer in Biology Nancy Braker ’81, Manager of Campus Energy Rob Hanson, Associate Director for the Office of Residential Life Tanya Hartwig, News and Social Media Manager Erica Helgerud ’20 and Assistant Director for Community Impact for the CCCE Erica Zweifel. Student members are Jeremy Fleishacker ’23, Elliot Hanson ’23, Simran Kadam ’23, Gabe Kaplan ’25, Kate O’Leary ’25, Eli Watt ’25 and Beck Woollen ’23. Members have begun to meet this term; their work will culminate in a report at the conclusion of Winter Term 2024.
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