Northern Michigan University is on its way to carbon neutrality by 2050. This fall, NMU’s Carbon Neutrality Task Force released a draft version of the university’s carbon neutrality plan. Since 2010, NMU has reduced its carbon footprint by 30% and currently has one of the smallest footprints of public universities in Michigan. The plan details ways to further reduce emissions over the next 25 years.

NMU’s path to carbon neutrality is paved with five core values: 

•  academic engagement

•  agility and adaptability

•  financial sustainability

•  reporting transparency 

•  service reliability. 

Five key values also drive the plan: 

•  increase carbon sequestration on
    university land

•  invest in renewable energy

•  optimize infrastructure

•  reduce energy use 

•  right-size our footprint. 

The document provides an overview of how all of these pieces fit together. 

The first goal is to bring campus carbon emissions down another 25% by 2030, from 32,000 metric tonnes a year to 25,000 metric tonnes. The second goal is to reduce to less than 16,000 tonnes by 2040. Three priority projects already underway have been switching campus facilities to LED lighting, which has resulted in thousands of dollars in savings and less energy use; installing more electric vehicle charging stations; and transitioning NMU's vehicle fleet, including public safety cars, to hybrids and electric vehicles.

“Having a carbon neutrality plan with clear metrics and targets is a critical first step in NMU’s transition to becoming more just and responsible in our energy use.”

Sarah Mittlefehldt
Professor and co-chair of the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee

Currently, the NMU Carbon Neutrality Task Force is seeking campus, community and alumni feedback. After assessing the input, a final version of the plan will be presented to the NMU Board of Trustees in December.

“The draft plan provides a great starting point for decarbonizing our campus. There isn’t a single tactic or action item to get us to ‘neutral’—and we might never get all the way there, but we need to start somewhere,” said Jessica Thompson '01 BA, College of Business professor and a member of the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee. “It will take a combination of actions at multiple scales to make a meaningful impact in reducing our carbon footprint. Even once final, the plan will require continual assessment and refinement as we make progress toward meeting the targets before 2050.”

By Sarah O'Neill '10 BS