2020 Vision: Dickinson College to Achieve Carbon Neutrality

Green banners

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Community helps fight climate change with behavior change

Dickinson College has met the challenge set forth in its Climate Action Plan and is on track to reach its goal of being carbon neutral in 2020. To be officially announced in April 2020, Dickinson will become one of just a few carbon-neutral college’s in the nation. In short, all of the activities included in the college’s carbon footprint—such as heating and cooling the campus, use of vehicles and air travel—will add zero net emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

“As a college committed to making a positive impact on the wider world, living up to this commitment was of vital importance to the entire Dickinson community,” says Dickinson President Margee Ensign. “This is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st-century, and we can be proud to say that we’ve taken the appropriate steps to ensure that our college is no longer contributing to human-caused climate change.”

Group effort

There’s an old maxim about being the change you want to see in the world. And Dickinson is living up to those words—and its own promises. The path to carbon neutrality began in 2009, when the college launched its Climate Action Plan. Getting from there to here didn’t just happen. With contributions from faculty and students to staff and campus operations, it was a true group effort.

“We couldn’t be more excited to focus and unify our efforts on the year ahead,” says Lindsey Lyons, assistant director of the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE), noting that the college's carbon path has led to local, national and international partnerships. “We’ve all been doing a lot of great work over many years, but the time has come for all Dickinsonians to be united around this carbon neutrality effort, which is rooted in pride. It's good for the planet and its people and financially responsible for the college.”

Resources to help you navigate neutrality

In an effort to engage all Dickinsonians across campus, CSE launched its yearlong Climate Change Needs Behavior Change campaign. The effort focuses on one behavior each month that has been determined by Rare—an international conservation organization whose stated mission is to help communities adopt sustainable behaviors—to have significant climate impact and realistic rates of adoption. Rare’s latest report represents findings about the specific individual actions that can most meaningfully curb carbon emissions and the opportunities that exist to apply behavioral insights to promote their adoption. Dickinson will focus on the following:

  • Walk, bike & rideshare (September 2019)
  • Build a plant-rich diet (October 2019)
  • Purchase consciously (November & December 2019)
  • Turn lights off & unplug (February 2020)
  • Reduce food waste (March 2020)
  • Make commitments (April 2020)
  • Join with others (May 2020)

The idea of carbon neutrality might be new to some and seem complicated. So CSE has created this resource page and a carbon neutrality Q&A to help people understand just what carbon neutrality means, how we’re achieving it, and why it’s so important to campus and the wider world. Additionally, CSE and its student interns will table, talk and tour their way around campus this year, educating students, faculty and staff about the effort.

To learn more about climate change, carbon neutrality and how you can help going forward, there are plenty of upcoming ways to get involved. Keep an eye on the college calendar for these and other events:

  • Carbon Neutrality Kickoff, to discuss Dickinson's efforts (Sept. 23, 5 p.m., HUB Social Hall)
  • Sustain It Workshop, to develop projects with others (Sept. 25, 11:30 a.m., HUB Social Hall)
  • BE.Hive Summit, to learn more about inspiring programs for effective behavior change (Oct. 5)


Published September 6, 2019