Macalester College, a small liberal arts school St. Paul, Minn., has released a sustainability plan leading to carbon neutrality by the year 2025, with zero waste by 2020. According to the, the plan is remarkable not in its goals, but in the ways it hopes to achieve them. For starters, the college included the student body in the plans for sustainability, taking input from 400 students, faculty and staff at a school of 1,900 students. Macalester took an honest look at its carbon emissions (19,351 metric tons in the academic year 2007-2008 according to the school's plan) and set a campus-wide task force with the goal of eliminating/counterbalancing them.

Another interesting aspect is the school's financial analysis of the environmental changes. They view their new policies as cost-cutting measures in addition to planet-saving endeavors. Some of these include LEED-platinum standard classroom buildings, student-designed green roofs on residence halls, solar hot water systems in residencies, and EnergyStar appliances campus-wide. The school estimated some of the changes would, for example cost $250,000 initially but said Macalester would regain this money in savings in just a few years. The plan is a wide-reaching one, even investigating air travel by faculty and students, proposing rail travel as a short-term alternative and restructuring programs like study abroad to include longer international stays plus emissions offsets in the long term. Many of the ideas in the plan are widely used elsewhere (for instance ZipCar, rain gardens, and discounts for reusing coffee mugs) but the university-wide implementation of all of them, of each aspect involved in running the university, makes the school a true leader in sustainability.

writer Timothy DenHerder-Thomas points out that the plan stands to "create ripples of change that extend far beyond campus" and broadens the definition of sustainability to include a healthy environment, social justice and a strong economy.  

Carbon neutral in college's future
Minnesota's Macalester College reveals a grassroots sustainability plan.