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Why Urban Sustainability?

Macalester College, with its urban location, strives to be a leader on urban sustainability. Macalester is located in Ramsey County in St. Paul, one of the country’s larger metropolitan areas and one of the most diverse and population dense counties in the State of Minnesota. The College Strategic Plan in 2016 noted urban sustainability as one of the strategic priorities for the institution, with the goal to “emphasize our urban location, and our historical commitments to sustainability, by focusing on the global city as a means to explore the intersection among such topics as the environment, science, technology, economics, and social justice.”  

What is Urban Sustainability? 

Sustainability of urban areas continues to grow in importance as more of the world’s population resides in urban areas. Learn more about urban sustainability and explore some urban sustainability examples in this Essay by Ethan Howard, an employee at the sustainability office. 

Macalester Programs 

Here at Macalester we engage in a variety of practices that explore sustainability in an urban environment. The Civic Engagement Center has a long history of connecting students with our urban community. Check out service-learning, service, and leadership opportunities. 

The Macalester College Sustainability Plan Draft includes urban sustainability as one of the six priority areas. The Sustainability Office also specifically supports using the campus as an urban living laboratory. Check out Sustainability Projects On Macalester Campus that can be seen as models. Check out the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System data from Macalester to see how the college compares to other institutions. 

SENSE OF PLACE FIELD GUIDES 

Macalester students developed this Sense of Place Field Guide as part of the Sustainability and the Campus class. The goal of the assignment was to have the students understand and communicate about the sustainability context of the college. If you would like to add another place to the field guide, please send your submission to 

What is Macalester doing to Create a More Sustainable Community? 

Like Zurich, Seoul, Copenhagen, Curitiba (and the many other cities pursuing a more sustainable future), Macalester is also working to manufacture and maintain a more sustainable campus and community. Like the stormwater management systems implemented in Curitiba, Macalester also manages its stormwater. This is accomplished using various methods including green roofs, porous pavers, and conversion of turf to living materials and sustainable landscaping. The campus’s Janet Wallace parking lot also underwent a renovation in 2011. Before its renovation, the lot flooded during storms. Now, stormwater is directed into a basin, which is filled with a specially engineered sand that filters out harmful phosphorous form the water as it is absorbed into the earth. Once absorbed,this water is then used by the plants and trees in the basin, creating a self-sustaining, stormwater reduction ecosystem. 
Urban sustainability is a key component to Macalester’s sustainability goals. By leveraging its urban location, the campus can be used as a “living laboratory” to conduct experiments, monitor social and environmental impacts, and connect to local organizations to collaborate on other projects. Our focus on urban sustainability is upheld through three core sustainability goals. Similar to Zurich, Macalester is working to be carbon neutral by 2025. This is arguably more ambitious than Zurich’s 2000-watt society (just on a much smaller scale), as it would completely offset campus carbon emissions! By 2020, 30% of the food served on Macalester campus will be classified as”Real Food”. Real Food is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. By 2020, Macalester will also be zero waste. Like Curitiba’s solid waste management programs, Macalester offers expansive and comprehensive composting and recycling options (located next to any trash can you find) on campus. This substantially reduces solid waste, and promotes healthier waste-disposal habits. There are a multitude of paths, initiatives, programs and qualities that form a “sustainable” urban environment. The ways we pursue these changes are feasible on both global and block-level scales. Macalester strives to represent the future of sustainability in the urban environment. Due to its location; its students, faculty and staff; its commitment to improving the world for future generations, this small liberal arts campus in St. Paul, Minnesota is becoming a microcosmic representation of urban sustainability. Using college campus, neighborhoods, and cities as sites of urban experimentation will help produce healthier and more equitable solutions globally.

Twin Cites 

GREEN STEP CITY 

 St. Paul has become a GreenStep City, meaning the city complies with at least 8 of a designated 29 best practices of Urban Sustainable Transportation

GROWING WITH THE TREES

A growing group of studies show that planting trees in urban settings promotes a suite of positive benefits, ranging from increased ecological resiliency to reduced air pollution. In past decades, cities across the country, including Minneapolis, have seen a net loss in tree cover, indicating the need to rethink how urban landscapes are designed and maintained. Learn more about urban tree planting from MPR news

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS