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Updated 2:30 PM April 12, 2006




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Students come carbon-neutral for school visit

The School of Natural Resources and Environment's (SNRE) annual Visit Day March 17 was "carbon-neutral" for the many admitted students who traveled to campus to learn more about the school before making final enrollment decisions.

"Carbon-Neutral Visit Day reinforces the school's commitment to sustainability—a value that is prominent across all degree programs—and introduces new students to the Sustainable Systems academic plan," SNRE Dean Rosina Bierbaum says.

Every time someone turns on a television, orders a hamburger, takes a flight or drives a car, carbon dioxide (CO2) is added into the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is released when fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal are burned.

Current U.S. travel options are carbon intensive. For example, a round-trip commercial airline flight between New York and Detroit would generate approximately 1,260 pounds of CO2, while driving from Chicago to Detroit would generate approximately 250 pounds of CO2.

There is widespread agreement within the scientific community that the emission of greenhouse gasses is changing the global climate and a growing consensus that these changes could threaten modern society.

"By taking part in the Carbon Neutral Visit Day, newly admitted students come to understand the impact their travel to the U-M campus has on the environment, and they find out what it will take to offset that impact," says Sondra Auerbach, director of academic services. "This effort was initiated by our master's students."

Offsetting is a term used to describe measures that reduce carbon in the atmosphere by the same amount that the emissions added. It is a way to neutralize or balance one's impact on the environment. There are organizations that offer carbon offsets by investing funds in climate-friendly projects such as planting trees, investing in windpower, and buying and retiring carbon credits. These activities reduce emissions, thus offsetting, or neutralizing, negative climate impact elsewhere.

Offsetting reduces climate change by making real reductions in amounts of carbon in the atmosphere; providing funds for renewable technologies and efficient appliances; and raising awareness of the impact that lifestyles have on the climate.

The school is working with Native Energy ( and Michigan Interfaith Power and Light (, two organizations that orchestrate the purchase of carbon off-sets. The money used to purchase off-sets will go to Native Wind (, a nonprofit agency that finances small, renewable energy projects that are in development on Native American reservations in the Dakotas.

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