Class Inspires Day of Fewer Cars with A Better Way to K

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff will take a step toward carbon neutrality while promoting healthier lifestyles and showing that sustainability matters to the campus community on Tuesday, May 16. The first A Better Way to K Day, planned through the Climate Action Plan Committee (CAP) and the Larry J. Bell ’80 Center for Environmental Stewardship, will invite anyone with business on campus to do anything other than drive on their own to K.

The idea for this event was initially brainstormed in the winter term as a “car-free day” in Professor of English Amelia Katanski’s Wheels of Change first-year seminar with input from City Planner and K alumna Christina Anderson ’98. The course explored how communities can build cycling infrastructure to better support residents.  

Carpooling, taking public transportation, walking, biking or running to get to the College all are encouraged for May 16, and participants who share social media posts with the hashtag #ABetterWaytoK will help spread awareness. Those with obstacles to these modes may still participate by spreading awareness of the day, reducing the number of car trips in a day or thinking critically about systems and what might need to change in our own lives, within K or within the community to make traveling without a car more accessible to everyone.  

“At the heart of the Kalamazoo College community is a commitment to sustainability, and our climate action plan is a commitment to achieving carbon neutrality,” Associate Vice President of Facilities Management and Chief Sustainability Officer Susan Lindemann said. “Finding alternative transportation to campus for A Better Way to K will impact both, while showing that a sustainable lifestyle is not only possible but valued and encouraged in our community.”  

Professor of English Amelia Katanski’s Wheels of Change first-year seminar traveled for a week to Copenhagen, Denmark, to see how the city, one of the world’s best for cycling infrastructure, can provide examples from which Kalamazoo can learn. That class, along with City Planner Christina Anderson ’98, initiated the idea for a climate-targeted “car-free day” on campus. That idea became A Better Way to K Day, scheduled for Tuesday, May 16.

Commuters who want to learn how to use public transportation may contact Associate Bookstore Director Richard Amundson at for information on routes and tokens. Anyone looking to organize group walks or runs to campus may contact Director of News and Social Media Andy Brown at Plus, students who live on campus may participate in A Better Way to K by spreading awareness and finding alternate ways to their off-campus jobs and sites around town. 

Sophomore Emerson Wesselhoff is spearheading student participation through CAP. 

“Initially, I was excited, but a bit confused by the idea of A Better Way to K,” Wesselhoff said. “I already live on campus and I don’t have a car. But I am going to participate by spreading awareness about the day and the reasons why it is so important. I will continue to walk to classes and make efforts to walk or bike to my off-campus job, the climbing gym and my other favorite Kalamazoo spots.” 

Based on recent car-count data from K’s Center for Environmental Stewardship, more than 500 cars are on campus every day. By decreasing that number even slightly, the K community can drastically decrease the carbon emitted from its passenger vehicles each year.  

One day, however, will only be the start of such community efforts that aid sustainability at K. CAP is asking those who participate in A Better Way to K Day—and those who don’t—to submit their reflections of the event along with what might have helped them or prevented them from participating to enable more efforts in the future. The short survey is available at the Sustainability at K website under Share Your Experience.  

“K can help students and our community make a difference in many global issues from across the street or around the world,” Lindemann said. “A Better Way to K will be a way to show we’re taking steps toward improving our climate and environment for everyone—now and for the future.”