Where Did the Year of Sustainability Start?

We sat down with Anne McNeil and Nate Sanders, the two professors who are leading the charge for the Year of Sustainability.

Were you connected before the Carbon Neutrality Task Force?

Former Associate Dean, Chris Poulsen, identified people within the college (LSA) who were interested in the topic of carbon neutrality which included students, faculty, and staff, and formed the Carbon Neutrality Task Force. Anne and Nate were fortunate to be in that group.

Anyone can read the top recommendations from this report here.

How did you get involved with carbon neutrality work? Was it a personal interest turned career?

There were two moving pieces that Anne recalls, her research and teaching.  At the same time her research was starting to move toward sustainable materials, she was teaching a course in the Honors College on climate change.  She remembers that many of the students in this course did not have a natural science background and were influenced by what they learned in the course and how it helped them navigate the future.  She mentions the importance of the “power to educate students” and how this guides her.

Nate pulls on his research on the conservation of biodiversity and the effects of the degradation of biodiversity on humans.  This led him to start thinking about how to “turn back the dial” on the college’s carbon footprint and ways to protect biodiversity at U-M and around Michigan.

What made you think of the Year of Sustainability? How did this idea start?

The Year of Sustainability was developed as one of the nine major recommendations that came out of the Carbon Neutrality Working Group.  Anne recalls conversations around sustainability not having a presence as big as it should have been, the group was pushing to get more people involved and be a part of the conversation.  Nate mentioned that the Carbon Neutrality working group was made up of people from all over LSA, with different backgrounds and interests.  The natural sciences focused more on carbon neutrality and the humanities focused more on preparing students for the future, but the Year of Sustainability brings together all of these aspects and unites action across disciplines.

What are you looking forward to most in the Year of Sustainability?

Anne looks forward to being able to measure the impact of the changes we make during the Year and being able to actually see the actionable changes made.

Nate looks forward to hearing and supporting the ideas that provide tangible solutions. 

What do you hope people gain from the Year of Sustainability?

Anne hopes that people truly understand that they have the ability to make a difference.

Nate hopes that people are able to see a future of a more habitable world and to increase awareness that there are solutions that will let us live in a more environmentally and socially just world. 

By stejenna

Jenna Steele is the Year of Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality Program Assistant for U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

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