Full-Spectrum Sustainability

Taking care of our planet.

Northland College cares about the air, land, water, and people of the region. Our goal is to prepare you for an environmentally-friendly life and career.

Core Values


There’s a reason why Northland ranks among the top colleges in the nation for sustainability curriculum—it’s infused in everything we do. And as part of your liberal arts core, you’ll have at least five classes with an environmental focus. We give you tools to excel in a greening world. How we do it»


If you have big questions—like, how to solve the world’s plastic problem—you’ll likely be able to research the answers. Northland is one of the best schools for research experiences due to our location, committed faculty, and our wide breadth of national, state, and regional partners. How we do it»


We care about food—where it comes from, how it’s raised, and the socio- and environmental impacts. Just by eating in our dining hall, you’re creating change. Beyond that, you can get involved with our gardens, compost crew, or the Food Recovery Network. How we do it»


Climate change issues are woven through many of our courses, and for a deeper dive, you can choose to study in our climate science program. We’ve taken a stand by divesting from fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy, and looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. How we do it»


Resilient and just communities are key to addressing the challenges of the future. It’s important that we incorporate themes of social justice throughout our coursework. Northland’s faculty is passionate about community, place, and equity. Expect lively discourse in all corners of campus. How we do it»

Fresh Water

The health and usage of freshwater resources is one of our greatest global challenges. In addition to our water science program, Northland’s Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation conducts research and does policy work. They offer a research track that grows with your skills. How we do it»

Get Involved


Do you dream of projects you’d like to make happen—like creating rain gardens or installing bike racks? Northland’s REFund program doles out $45,000 each year for student-initiated sustainability projects on campus. Learn more»

Environmental Council

For a more civic-minded option, consider running for a position that lets you discuss environmental issues at the campus, community, national, and global level. A great way to participate in local activism. Learn more»

Sunshine Bike Shop

We’re a bike-friendly campus, big on alternative transportation. The bike shop loans out bikes on a semester basis and provides basic bike maintenance and repair. Consider leaving your car at home! Learn more»

ReUse Room

Our student-run thrift store lets you pick up clothing, household items, books, and other goods at no charge. It’s also a great place to make donations of things you no longer use. Learn more»

Food Recovery Network

Be a part of this nationwide, student-led movement that packages leftover cafeteria food for distribution to those in need. It’s a beautiful combination of preventing food waste and promoting social justice. Learn more»

Eco Reps

If you like coming up with fun ways to encourage all of us to make small changes towards sustainable living, this is the group for you. Think unplugged nights around the bonfire and eco-lympics. Learn more»

Real Solutions


Four Northland College students sit in a boat with survey equipment

Setting the Standard

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has ranked Northland #1 in the nation for curriculum related to sustainability. It’s no surprise—we made history as the first college in the country to fully integrate an environmental focus with its liberal arts curriculum. We’re setting the standard with our academic programs and offer two first-year student tracks focused on food and Lake Superior. Read more»

Making a Difference

Student Tara Padovan and classmates flew to Greece during May Term 2018 to volunteer with Project Elea, a nonprofit, volunteer-managed group that specializes in creative facilitation, culturally-sensitive activities, and community-building workshops. Read more»

Northland College student in class

Healing Through Science

Emma Holtan ’20 was a water science student interested in mental and physical health. Funded by a Northland program to allow students to travel and pursue opportunities, she traveled to the Reciprocal Healing Confluence. Read more»


Northland College student works on the high tunnel

Committing to Real Food

We’ve signed on to the Real Food Challenge to achieve 20 percent “real food” by 2020. To complement this goal, Northland students manage several campus gardens—growing, harvesting, and distributing organic food to campus and beyond. These living green spaces teach ecological and regionally appropriate food systems and provide an outdoor laboratory for discovery. Read more»

Northland College business students

Uniting Farming and Business

Northland business students teamed up with our on-campus food lab to create and market value-aded hazelnut products—a local crop that is gaining momentum as a sustainable farming solution. The American Hazelnut Company heard pitches for original creations like vegan ice cream, protein energy balls, and gluten-free cookie dough. Read more»


H. Pearson Plaza and Ashland City Hall in downtown Ashland, Wisconsin

Creating Effective Change

Northland’s sustainable community development major is one of the first of its kind in the nation. We look at the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic) and combine the concepts of community organizing, urban planning, economic development, and ecological restoration.

Northland College students survey city

Building Resilient Communities

Recognizing that rural communities often struggle with social and economic challenges, Northland’s Center for Rural Communities applies research-based solutions to these challenges and promotes the long-term health and vitality of communities. As a student, you’ll find work and research opportunities that get you out into communities doing groundwork that matters. Read more»

Kids at Stockton

Connecting Kids with Nature

As an outdoor education student, you can help show area middle school kids the importance of connecting with nature through the Apostle Islands School. Kids put away their electronic devices for a wilderness camping trip and engage in exploratory learning with Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands. Programming is student-led in partnership with the National Park Service and Friends of the Apostle Islands.


Taking Medicine to the Woods

Student Erick Marchessault conducted research on tick-born illnesses at the Mabel Cora Maxwell Nature Study Area, an outdoor classroom for faculty and students for research and stewardship work. Read more»


Saving Martens

Students and researchers are working with the National Park Service, as well as state and Tribal agencies, maintaining camera traps and collecting scat in the park to document the elusive and endangered American marten. Read more»

Solving Our Plastic Crisis

Professor Nick Robertson works with Northland students to answer a big question: Can they turn a waste product into a useful material? Read more»


Eau Claire solar garden, photo taken by PJ Nelson

Committing to the Planet

Northland students voted to invest in solar shares that will help power our science center and greenhouse. The $32,000 price tag was taken care of by Northland’s Renewable Energy Fund (REFund), a student-administered grant program that has funded a long list of projects designed to enhance sustainability and increase energy efficiency on campus. Read more»

Heather Swan in Beesuit

Putting Ideas into Action

We don’t just talk about climate change–we work to remediate it every way we can. Here are 17 ways we’re doing our part. Read more»

Solving Critical Issues

For students who want to dive deep into the science of climate change—including policy, economics, climate models, and mitigation—consider Northland’s climate science program. Read more»



Protecting our Fresh Water

To help preserve our world’s water resources, Northland’s Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation combines education, research, and outreach programs to give you experience in water science and policy. Help develop solutions to water resource problems and bring experts together to implement change. Read more»

Northland College students and alum prepar<a href=

Making Green Changes

In 2018, Northland adopted a Zero Stormwater Discharge policy, which means we’re committed to managing all rainfall runoff on campus. This initiative drives all of our construction projects—including our new stadium—and provides incentives like installing rain gardens that help capture stormwater. Read more»

student with water samples

Solving Water Issues

Northland’s water science program gives you the skills to understand the chemistry, biology, and movement of water in the environment. You’ll also gain a deep appreciation for how we are connected to each other and the Earth through water. You’ll study geologic, hydrologic, and atmospheric processes and learn the role people play in water quality. Read more»

Where an Environmental Degree Can Take You