About 40 University of Michigan students gathered in the Ross School of Business Tuesday night to hear about the ways in which businesses can achieve carbon neutrality on campus.
Before the start of the event, Business senior Jennifer Maiorana described how she and fellow students from Net Impact, an organization focused on social and environmental change, were determined to organize this event. She said she was thrilled to have panelists speak to students who represented different disciplines.
The panel of four began by answering a series of questions about carbon neutrality from student moderators of Net Impact.
Stephen Forrest, one of the co-chairs of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, said if even a small number of individuals adjusted their everyday activities to reduce their carbon footprint, society could potentially begin to take steps toward carbon neutrality.
Forrest told the audience he walks four miles round-trip to work every day in an effort to reduce his own carbon footprint.
“It’s all about the culture,” Forrest said. “We have to come up with an economically justifiable and equitable plan to get us to carbon neutrality.”
Joe Trumpey, Art & Design associate professor, said his primary concern regarding carbon neutrality is urgency, specifically the speed at which society takes care of the issue of carbon footprint effects. He said reducing one’s meat consumption is a key way to work toward carbon neutrality.
“The number one thing you can do for carbon (neutrality) is to reduce your meat consumption,” Trumpey said.
In a section of student questions, Jennifer Haverkamp, the other co-chair of the PCCN, said the city of Ann Arbor is developing an independent plan to achieve carbon neutrality, and the University is partnering with them to find a solution.
“Our commission is looking forward to how we get the University to carbon neutrality,” Haverkamp said.
Though she stressed the importance of reducing the carbon footprint, she reiterated the fact that this effort requires small steps.
“It doesn’t mean zero emissions necessarily … because there are ways to counterbalance them,” Haverkamp said.
According to Forrest, many businesses are gradually gaining understanding of how exactly to accomplish this reduced carbon footprint. He said there are three prominent barriers to achieving carbon neutrality: the economic model, society’s attitude and the issue of equity.
“(The current economic model) is not for long-term thinking; it’s for short-term thinking,” Forrest said. “And most people don’t see anything wrong with how we’re sitting today.”
In understanding all of this information, Andy Hoffman, Business professor of sustainable enterprise, stated that change will not be seen unless initiative is taken.
“The real challenge is to pull it all together and to find the solutions,” Hoffman said. “At the root of this whole thing … we’re talking about changing our culture. Everything in your business education needs to be applied to this challenge. So, next time someone tells you it can’t be done, do it anyway.”
LSA freshman Mekulash Baron-Galbavi did agree that the University and people in business should be taking the initiative to reduce the carbon footprint, though he noted the panel seemed to focus on what individuals should be doing.
“They spent a lot of time talking about responsibility being on our generation,” Baron-Galbavi said.