With 2020 just around the corner, Macalester is fast approaching the deadlines for some of its sustainability commitments: zero waste by 2020, 30 percent real food by 2020, and carbon neutral by 2025.

Zero waste by 2020
To be considered zero waste, Macalester must be regularly diverting 90 percent of its waste from a landfill or incinerator. This goal was set in 2008, and by 2017–18, the college was diverting 74 percent.

“I didn’t think we were going to be able to get that far, and so I am kind of amazed at what we have been able to do,” sustainability manager Suzanne Savanick Hansen says.

Sending the leftover food waste from Café Mac and Bon Appétit catering to pig farms and implementing campus-wide composting have greatly contributed to Macalester’s success with going zero waste.

But there’s more work to do. The next strategy is to increase education outreach to reduce confusion about composting guidelines.

30 percent real food challenge by 2020
“Real food” is defined as being local, organic, humane, or fair trade. With Bon Appétit’s farm-to-fork program, Macalester is currently supporting 23 percent local food. In the summer, when it’s the growing season and with fewer students on campus, it is easier to achieve 30 percent real food.

The challenge is maintaining that status year-round. With help from Bon Appétit student workers and the various food justice organizations on campus, “we are trying to figure out more ways to find local vendors that might be able to also serve us,” Hansen says.

Carbon neutral by 2025
Through focusing on energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy, Macalester aims to be carbon neutral through a 52 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 48 percent development in offsets.

“We still have some more time and we still have more work to do, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Hansen says.

Macalester has implemented a few solar panels and has switched from fuel oil to natural gas in the steam plant, among other changes. Since 2014, Macalester has saved over $186,000 because of energy efficiency. In total, Macalester has saved over $2.7 million in sustainability-related projects, mostly since 2006.

Carbon offsets are projects and programs that the college can invest in to prevent or mitigate emissions elsewhere, offsetting its own unavoidable emissions such as those from airline travel for study away. “Planting trees is a very classic example, but there are other things people do too, such as landfill gas capture—collecting and treating methane gas emitted from landfills for electricity— and energy efficiency in other places,” Hansen says.

The Sustainability Office plans to host a tree-planting event near campus and calculate the environmental benefits of these trees over their lifetime. This event will also draw on the other sustainability goals Macalester has committed to: education, urban sustainability, and sustainability and wellness. All of these goals aim to position Mac as a role model in sustainability within our community and for other colleges.

“We all have our sphere of influence, so if everybody does their thing in their sphere of influence, then we are getting somewhere,” Hansen says. “It’s going to be a collective effort because not one of us can stop climate change on our own.”

—Livvie Avrick ’19

May 1 2019

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