Aligning Carbon Neutrality Goals with Educational Mission: Onsetting
Pacific Lutheran University is piloting an educational and participatory program to begin mitigating one of the largest contributors to PLU’s carbon emissions – study abroad air miles. When the new president reaffirmed PLU’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2020 by signing the ACUPCC, the study away and sustainability centers partnered to meet this goal in a meaningful manner. Global education is a pathway to distinction at PLU. However, as a result our study away program contributes 19.4 percent of the university’s total carbon footprint at over 3,700 MTCO2e.
PLU has dropped its CO2 emissions by 17 percent, but in order to reach neutrality, we knew we would need to invest in a third party offset. The concern was that traditional offsets would not meet the need for education and connection in students who were travelling. PLU sought the help of an organization that is redefining the false concept of offsetting one’s carbon footprint by reframing it as “onsetting”, Earth Deeds. Their focus is increasing carbon consciousness by providing tools to measure, manage and reduce our ecological impact and support community-based sustainability projects. Such projects are not necessarily certified by a third party nor are they measurable in terms of carbon neutrality. Rather, the projects have a meaningful and positive environmental impact on the local community.
Students calculate their individual carbon footprint, offset a portion, and then onset to a sustainability project in a community that PLU students are affiliated with.