UM Blewett School of Law Goes Carbon Neutral

Students and administrators at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law and the Office of Sustainability at the University of Montana have joined forces to raise $565 to offset the law school building’s carbon footprint.

Beginning in 2018, the student-led Environmental Law Group worked with UM’s Office of Sustainability to calculate the school’s carbon dioxide equivalent, determine the funds needed to offset emissions, then select a provider of carbon offsets. In one year, the law school’s electricity and natural gas consumption is responsible for around 751 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions related to the building’s operation. By launching an annual Carbon Neutral Raffle during the school’s Earth Law Week, the ELG seeks to raise $565 each year, the amount needed to continually offset these emissions.

Lowell Chandler, a third-year law student and ELG member, was instrumental in the school’s efforts to address its carbon footprint.

“Young and old generations alike want to see action on climate change and every little step counts,” Chandler said. “I’m very proud to say that the law school is now providing some leadership on campus on this issue and is taking proactive steps to reduce its impact. Big thanks to ELG members and supporters, Dean Paul Kirgis, and UM’s Sustainability Coordinator Eva Rocke.”

Since 2018, the Environmental Law Group raises carbon offsetting funds each year during Earth Law Week, an ELG program to raise awareness of environmental and natural resource law issues, featuring educational speakers, an information booth, and daily raffles for commuters who walk, bike or bus to school. Earth Law Week takes place every year during a week in April.

When the fundraising goal was first reached in 2018, Chandler and other members of ELG worked with UM’s Office of Sustainability to research organizations and seek proposals from groups providing carbon offsets. Earlier this year, the school selected Sterling Planet, a group from Alpharetta, Georgia, who provides carbon offsets and certified renewable energy certificates. Carbon offsets include projects that don’t cause the release of gases, such as solar panels, wind farms, clean fuels and energy efficiency, as well as projects that sequester or destroy carbon dioxide, such as tree planting, methane capture or landfill gas recovery.

“This is a wonderful example of our students putting their values into practice,” said Paul Kirgis, dean of the law school. “It is important for us to mitigate our emissions impact, but also to provide leadership to the broader campus and community on this issue. Working with UM’s Office of Sustainability, other departments and student groups can make positive change toward carbon offsets. We hope to see more of these efforts across campus, and beyond.”