St. Paul's Macalester College released its Sustainability Plan on September 15th. In the midst of a flurry of action on the national policy level, internationally around the G-20 summit, and the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations, and in local community struggles against coal plants, mountain-top-removal mining, and other dirty energy sources, one more college sustainability plan seems almost insignificant. What's important about this plan, however, is not what its goals are (though they include carbon neutrality by 2025, zero waste by 2020, and more) but how it plans to achieve them. I hope this focus on the method as well as the goals can inform and inspire people from all types of different backgrounds seeking to build a sustainable future. Here's a brief synopsis of the key features of that how:
1. Going carbon neutral will be revenue positive, meaning a carbon-free future is as much commonsense smart decision-making as it is a moral imperative.
2. Designing the vision was participatory - 400 students, faculty, and staff contributed at a college with a student body of 1900 - and implementation will continue to be. The plan clearly states that it is a baseline platform, not a ceiling.
3. The changes really matter - with a few exceptions, the plan identifies strategies to that make actual change, rather than check the boxes of conventional practice.
4. The college plans to create ripples of change that extend far beyond campus - emphasizing pathways to broader change through the supply-chains, education process, and community relationships it engages.
5. Sustainability is defined holistically as the ongoing process of nurturing a healthy environment, social justice, and a strong economy. It is a guiding quality of all the institution's core values, not an addition to them.
This plan is a bold step forward for Macalester, and one that also seeks to serve as a guide for other colleges, companies, and communities. Whatever your field of work, I encourage you to take a moment to explore the plan's real, well-researched, concrete solutions that could offer insights into better ways of doing business at a broader scale.
You can read the full report here.
If you'd like to check out more of my reflections on the plan, its approach, and its implications, you can check out my longer cross-post.