In 2001, University of Minnesota, Morris student leaders asked campus officials to subscribe to Otter Tail Power Company’s wind power program. The campus agreed to buy wind energy for the Student Center. But to offset the extra expense for alternative power, officials challenged students to save an equal amount of money through conservation.
Students embraced the challenge. Water and power usage in residence halls fell and recycling jumped , saving thousands of dollars.
The students also prompted some soul searching, says Lowell Rasmussen, vice chancellor for finance and facilities. “We asked ourselves if we were good stewards of all our resources. That started us on the path to sustainability.
Below are some of the Morris campus conservation initiatives.
Fleet: fewer emissions
The campus fleet of hybrid gas-electric cars consumes less gasoline and emits fewer greenhouse gases than conventional vehicles, cutting more than 21 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Diesel-powered grounds equipment runs on B-20, a 20 percent blend of soy biodiesel. The Morris fleet also includes a zero-emissions vehicle, the ZEV, which runs on electricity. The campus also has a bus program to transport students between Morris and the Twin Cities on weekends.
Water: slowing the flow
Water flow restrictors on bathroom faucets and showers, low water flow toilets, and automated urinal flushers have cut campus water use by two million gallons a year. Process water from the campus steam plant is recycled, rather than discharged.
Light and heat: energy-saving upgrades
The campus has invested $4 million in energy saving improvements to existing buildings. Conventional lamps have been replaced with energy efficient LED lights or compact fluorescent bulbs, and programmable temperature controls have been installed in campus buildings. These investments save the campus several hundred thousand dollars a year. These and other upgrades are being paid for with energy savings—which total several hundred thousand dollars a year—through an innovative financing arrangement with McKinstry, an engineering and energy services firm.
Less waste: more recycling
Students run the Morris recycling program. The campus recycles aluminum, tin, plastic, glass, and electronics waste as well as cardboard, glossy paper, office paper, and newsprint. The campus uses eco-friendly cleaners and recycled paper products whenever possible. Disposable plates and cutlery are made from biodegradable starch. Students are even experimenting with composting food waste from the campus café.
Renovation: energy efficient standards
The Welcome Center renovation transformed the 1915 Community Services building into one of the most energy efficient structures in Minnesota. The Welcome Center is built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, which set benchmarks for energy efficiency and sustainability. Future campus construction and renovation will also apply LEED sustainability standards. The campus policy to promote LEED building standards grew out of a student-led initiative.
Housing: green residence hall
A planned green residence hall for 80 students will demonstrate sustainable living. The Green Prairie Living and Learning Community will feature a real-time energy monitoring system, which will tell residents exactly how much power they’re using, so they can adjust their behavior to save energy—and money!
Landscape: showcasing green practices
Storm water gardens, wetlands, jewel box greenhouses, low-maintenance native plants, pedestrian-friendly roadways. These are some of the ways that campus landscaping plans promote sustainability, highlight the campus’s green commitment, and demonstrate environmentally sound water management practices. There’s even a student-run organic garden on campus.
Green champions: raising awareness
Every February, campus residence halls compete to reduce their heat and electricity consumption, use less water, and recycle more. Special events during the “dorm energy wars” include a film series and weekly conservation themes.
Power down: energy-saving vending machines
Morris students led the effort to install VendingMisers® on refrigerated vending machines. The devices automatically power down the machines when they are not in active use, cutting energy consumption by more than 40 percent.
Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions
From CO2Now.org: “Global warming is mainly the result of CO2 levels rising in the Earth’s atmosphere. Both atmospheric CO2 and climate change are accelerating. Climate scientists say we have years, not decades, to stabilize CO2 and other greenhouse gases.”