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Sustainability at Carthage

By continuously looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint, we’re turning Carthage a greener shade of red.

Facilities and Maintenance

  • The College uses environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo or Forbo Marmoleum flooring (instead of hardwood); zero- or low-VOC paint; furniture made from plantation-grown wood; LED lights; and carpeting with at least 35 percent recycled content.

  • Only Green Seal-certified cleaning products are used on campus, and all Environmental Services staff members have been trained in green cleaning techniques.

  • Although Carthage has not chosen to pursue the formal certification, since 2008 all new campus structures have been built to LEED Silver standards.

  • New and renovated campus buildings incorporate methods to reduce energy consumption, including day lighting, occupancy sensor lighting controls, and demand-controlled ventilation systems.

  • The Joan C. Potente Chapel on the Carthage campus.Six geothermal wells provide temperature control for the Joan C. Potente Chapel. The only additional energy required is the electricity to run the pump and fan.

  • Building Information Management (BIM) technology, which provides a 3-D model of a building, has reduced construction waste by an estimated 70 percent.

Dining Services

  • All cooking oil used on campus — roughly 35 gallons each week — is recycled for use as biodiesel fuel.

  • No trays are used in campus dining, which minimizes waste (students take less food) and conserves about 280 gallons of water per day.

  • New dishwasher model dehydrates food scraps into pellets for use as fertilizer.

  • Campus vendors that offer disposable utensils use SpudWare — 80 percent crop-based and 20 percent natural fibers — which biodegrades in 180 days.

  • Locally grown produce and organic ingredients are incorporated into the menu, fair trade and organic coffee are served, and periodic farmers’ markets are planned in The Caf.

  • New software allows staff to measure and categorize food waste to inform future decisions.

  • Unused food is donated to a local charity three days per week.

Landscape and Grounds

  • Carthage’s 80-acre campus is an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. The general public is invited to tour the Alice Moody Chapin Arboretum and Phil Sander Audubon Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary during the daylight hours.

  • The College plants about 20 new trees per year from a variety of species.

  • Tree debris is chipped into mulch for use on wildlife sanctuary paths and elsewhere on campus, and fallen leaves are composted.

  • Sidewalks are pretreated to limit salt usage during winter.

Recycling and Waste Management 

  • Eighty-five percent of the materials from the former Seidemann Natatorium were recycled when the building was renovated to create the Campbell Student Union.

  • Carthage’s solar-powered compactor, one of three in Wisconsin, reduces energy expenses. A separate cardboard compactor reduces the flow of trash to landfills.

  • The College recycles used electronics, refrigerant from used refrigerators, and motor oil (and oil filters) from campus vehicles. Batteries, light bulbs, and ink cartridges are collected for recycling.

Library and Information Services

  • A print monitoring system has drastically reduced paper waste. A group of student employees determines the number of “free prints” that each student is allocated per year.

  • Computers in Hedberg Library and other labs across campus are set to shut down automatically at night.

  • Many books removed from circulation are sent to Better World Books for reuse or resale; the rest are recycled.

  • Other de-accessioned materials (such as VHS tapes or vinyl LPs) are made available for purchase via eBay..

Research and Education

Carthage offers many avenues for students interested in pursuing research and study in sustainability and environmental topics.

Dendroecology Research Lab

Human activities are profoundly changing natural communities across landscapes at rapid and accelerating rates. Sustainability research through the Geography and Earth Science Department’s Dendroecology Research Lab is helping to predict the fate of these ecosystems, particularly in the face of novel disturbance regimes and a changing climate.

Biogeographic research at Carthage College funded by the National Science Foundation has made important contributions at the interface of human impacts, ecosystem dynamics, and climate change. Specifically, Carthage students conduct research with Professor Joy Mast on the impact on tree regeneration of the altered conditions of a post-high-severity burn environment coupled with the drought conditions that foster high-intensity fires in the Southwest, as well as on wildlife use of the burned forests. In addition, Carthage students join Prof. Mast in research on wildlife use of forests after bark beetle epidemics to view the sustainability of habitats. Students study the resiliency of forests in light of sustainable forestry practices and restoration of forests through prescribed burns and thinning of unnatural fuel loads.

These studies advance biogeographical and ecological theory by examining successional dynamics in extreme climate conditions under a human-altered fire regime and wildlife responses to both high-intensity fires and large insect epidemics in conifer forests of the American Southwest.

Water and Energy Sustainability Projects in Nicaragua

The Geography and Earth Science Department offers a Carthage Symposium course titled “The Biology and Geography of Nicaragua” every January and June. In this course, geography professor Matt Zorn leads students to Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, where they contribute to sustainability projects in water and energy. These projects are ongoing, with expansion and improvements being made during each trip to the island.

Ometepe is the largest fresh water island in the world, yet few of the 40,000 inhabitants of this island have access to potable drinking water. Medical clinics on the island have been primarily treating waterborne diseases, so providing access to clean water will address the root cause of this problem rather than treating the resulting symptoms. As of June 2014, students have improved water lines and installed tanks that store 20,000 liters of water for one the communities.  Sustainability involves both water quantity and quality and students work on each of these issues.

Electrical power for the residents of Ometepe is mostly supplied by an antiquated diesel generator. Diesel fuel needs to be imported at high cost to the island to power the generator, making electricity expensive. Aside from the high cost of fuel, the aging generator is not very reliable and there are frequent blackouts on the island that sometimes last for days. The opportunities for cleaner and more efficient forms of energy production are numerous. Ometepe is a tropical island, so currently solar energy is the primary focus.  Other forms of sustainable energy, including both wind and bio-fuel, will be future projects.

Invasive Species Working Group

The Environmental Science Program at Carthage is an interdisciplinary program that emphasizes education, research, and community service. Students study conservation and ecology, environmental policy, and environmental data analysis. Faculty and students conduct research on and off campus that positively impacts the environment. Carthage’s Invasive Species Working Group monitors invasive species in southeast Wisconsin, led by professors Tracy Gartner and Scott Hegrenes. Through the Prairie Restoration course, students work with a local nature center to design and implement a native prairie planting, involving students from a local high school to further environmental education.

Sustainability at Carthage



  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2021), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors, and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from marketing to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $25,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked in the Top 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …