As the U.N. Convention on Climate Change prepares to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, February 8-13, Northland College in Ashland is working on its own initiatives for reducing carbon emissions.

Northland announced last fall the selection of Affiliated Engineers, Inc. (AEI) to conduct a comprehensive campus-wide energy study with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. AEI launched its study in mid-December with a two-day tour of campus and meetings with community and campus groups.

“Just as world leaders are meeting in Geneva to address climate change on a global scale, so too are leaders at colleges and universities across the country taking bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their institutions,” said Northland College Regional Sustainability Coordinator Nathan Engstrom.

Northland College expects to have the energy study completed by fall.

“The Geneva Climate Change Convention is a recognition that the world must transform itself in dramatic ways to combat climate change,” Engstrom said. “We believe that change requires more than technical knowledge — it demands an exploration of human nature.”

In 2007 Northland became a member of the leadership circle of signatories of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment. To date 685 colleges and universities have joined this commitment to move towards carbon neutrality.

“Northland students demand that we ‘walk our talk’ of promoting sustainability practices and that we develop realistic models for sustainable living on campus that can be shared with our community,” Engstrom said.

AEI’s study will explore and assess technical, economic and environmental costs and benefits of the options available for reducing campus carbon dioxide emissions from Northland’s current level of about 3,500 metric tons of CO2e/year (roughly the equivalent of annual emissions of 737 passenger vehicles) to net zero.

“Assessment is an important first step in reducing carbon emissions and in demonstrating this commitment,” Engstrom said.

After the study, Northland will explore purchasing and producing large amounts of renewable energy, and investigating technologies to dramatically reduce or even eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels to heat and cool the campus, according to Engstrom.

The energy study is part of a larger College initiative, funded by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, to foster sustainable community development and student leadership.

“Projects within the initiative develop students as future leaders, strengthen collaborations with community partners and build infrastructure needed for the College and region to achieve best practices in environmental sustainability,” Engstrom said.

Affiliated Engineers, Inc., headquartered in Madison, Wis., was chosen from a pool of four firms that submitted proposals, Engstrom said. “We have strong confidence they will provide us with a visionary plan for carbon neutrality that will cement our leadership on campus and regional sustainability.”