Fall 2010 summary

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Is it really December already!? It's been a busy semester in the sustainability studies minor, and unfortunately I haven't been blogging much. Here's a brief summary of what's been happening...

At the end of summer, I was able to visit the Morris campus and got an awesome tour from their sustainability coordinator, Troy Goodnough.

Wind turbine at the Morris campus.
wind.jpgBiomass plant at the Morris campus.
biomass.jpgDuring Welcome Week, we had a huge sustainability open house at the Institute on the Environment, where thousands of first-year students got to learn about the endless opportunities to get involved with campus sustainability efforts. At this event, I met the Twin Cities campus' new sustainability coordinator, Shane Stennes.

Welcome Week Open House event.
Thumbnail image for welcomeweek.jpgWithin the first few weeks of classes starting, leaders from numerous student environmental groups got together  to discuss what everyone is doing this semester and how groups can collaborate. It was a successful and productive meeting, and it's always great to see so much student interest!

Student group leaders, Fall 2010. photo by Amy Short.
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Beth, Amy, and several other sustainability staff from the U attended the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Denver in October. Two students joined them and discussed their experience with the Energy Efficiency Student Alliance. Sustainability leaders from campuses across the country were amazed at our students' work and were eager to learn how they could start similar projects at their universities.

U of M students, Andy and Rob, present about EESA in Denver.
photo by Amy Short.

EESA.jpg For the second year in a row, the University of Minnesota was proud to receive an "A" ranking from the College Sustainability Report Card. This is a great accomplishment, and could not have been done without student, faculty, staff and administrative collaboration. While the University has much more work to do, our current efforts should not go unnoticed. To see all of our results from the ranking, click here.

The Climate Action Plan committee launched it's new website this fall, and hosted two student input sessions to get students' ideas on how to make the campus climate neutral. The sessions attracted dozens of students and many of the ideas are now going into the draft plan. Another new website was launched this semester: the U of M Environmental Portal. It is the U's one-stop shop for all things sustainability.
One new class offered by the sustainability studies minor this fall was the Climate Policy course, taught by energy policy champions state Senator Ellen Anderson and state Representative Kate Knuth. Anderson and Knuth led a group of students to the UN Climate Talks in Mexico, which was a life-changing experience for those who attended. Read more on their blog here. You can also watch a presentation about their trip.
The U of M delegation at the UN Climate Negotiations.
photo by Jayme Dittmar.
COP group.jpgSustainability Studies student Andy Pearson dicsusses his experience
at the UN Climate Negotiations. photo by Amy Short.
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The Minor is also working on developing a May term off-campus program that would allow students to learn (and possibly) intern at the Morris campus.  The program is still in the early planning phase and may or may not actually happen. If it does happen, though, Twin Cities students would be able to learn about issues like energy production, local foods and sustainable agriculture, water resource issues, and more.

After this week, I will be done with my job here. I'm sad to leave the position, as it has been the best job I've ever had, but I look forward to post-graduation career opportunities. I also look forward to hearing about sustainability progress at the U, so hopefully someone will update this blog more frequently!  

July and August updates!

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Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships' annual statewide meeting up in Duluth and Cloquet.

I first attended a Partnerships meeting last fall as part of my job here, and have attended several meetings in St. Paul since then. This one was different, though, because we were in a different location, got an awesome sustainability tour of Duluth, and got to sleep in cabins!

We started at the DECC, the region's major convention center. They have been active in waste reduction, energy efficiency, local foods, and other important aspects of sustainability for an institution with such a large environmental impact.

Next, we went to the county building downtown and toured the new motor pool garage rooftop garden. This is a community garden growing vegetables and other plants, and also houses a large solar panel for energy production.

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After the green roof, we kept with the urban agriculture theme and visited another Duluth Community Garden, called Strawberry Hill. This one was, as the name implies, located on a hillside overlooking the harbor and Lake Superior. The lot was purchased years ago for one dollar by the city, and now offers residents the opportunity to grow vegetables, fruits, and more.

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To conclude our Duluth tour, we visited the U of M's Duluth campus to see the Bagley Nature Area and classroom. The classroom is the University system's "greenest" building to date, and offers UMD students a place to learn about environmental sciences, as well as various other subjects. It has large windows for lighting and winter heating, a green roof to reduce stormwater runoff, composting toilets, and additional assets not found in most buildings. UMD's Sustainability Coordinator, Mindy Granley, gave us a tour of the site and told us lots of interesting information.

Thumbnail image for Bagley Center, UMD
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Hopefully in the future, buildings like this will be the norm! Though I am happy this building exists, I would like to see similar things built on the Twin Cities campus (as well as all campuses). I had not known about it before my visit last week, and if the U of M encouraged more of this type of development, it could greatly improve our sustainability reputation. By seeing and experiencing things first-hand, I believe students will have a much better understanding and appreciation of sustainable development and education.

After Duluth, we stayed at Cloquet Forestry Center and had the actual Partnerships meeting. Cloquet is beautiful! The meeting was long but productive. One of the things I heard many people mention was the desire for more students and young people to become involved with the organization. We are trying to figure out ways to make this happen.

Besides that incredible trip, I have mainly been planning the Sustainability Open House for first-year students during Welcome Week. Starting next week and lasting until the weekend before fall semester begins, I will be venturing to western Minnesota to farm-sit for Kathy Draeger, whom I know through Regional Partnerships. Best of all, I will be able to telecommute to my job here. I am grateful for having such a fun and rewarding job!

See you next month, Twin Cities!

This blog has obviously not been updated as much as we originally intended it to, but I hope to keep up with regular updates for at least the rest of this summer.

During spring semester, the Minor collaborated with student groups to host a Green Jobs Revolution event, where students and community members got to hear from professionals about all the different careers available in environmental fields.

Green Jobs Revolution
We also worked with the Bell Museum to host some well-attended film and panel events about sustainable agriculture. You can learn more about these events and others here.

In April, Beth and I (Lance), along with the U of M's sustainability coordinator Amy Short and another student, attended the Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability's annual conference. We got to meet many cool people from campuses around the region and even got to see nationally-known Anishinaabeg activist-writer Winona LaDuke speak.

Though spring semester ended a month ago, the sustainability studies minor is still as busy as ever. Mary Scott, the sustainability studies minor communications assistant, recently returned from a semester in India, and has been working diligently on improving our always-expanding website. I'm currently working on a big Welcome Week sustainability fair to educate and engage first-year students.

Earlier this week, Beth and I attended the Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace's "Renewable Energy Showcase" at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. We got to hear experts from various energy-related careers.

I am registered for and excited to attend another conference next month, hosted by the Midwest Regional Collaborative for Sustainability Education in Ashland, Wisconsin. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to attend great events like these, and be able to get reimbursed as an Institute on the Environment employee! Hopefully soon we will be able to get more sustainability students to attend similar events in the area. If you are interested in conferences and other events, remember to regularly check out our calendar.

We are also planning to do more work on the St. Paul Campus Sustainability Map, which is currently still in the beginning stages:

View St. Paul Campus Sustainability Tour in a larger map

Beth and Amy are also preparing for a fall conference hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. It's their annual conference, and it's taking place in Denver, Colorado in October. University Services is currently in the process of hiring a new sustainability coordinator for the campus, so we will soon be working with someone new! As you can see, we continue to be busy with numerous activities, and are excited to keep the momentum going! 

We have a blog!

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This is a new page to serve as a dialogue among Sustainability Studies Minor students, other interested students, faculty, staff and community members about sustainability topics at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, in our local communities. and around the world.

What is the Sustainability Studies Minor? The University of Minnesota's Sustainability Studies Minor immerses students in the study of real-world problems from a variety of academic perspectives, incorporating disciplines from across the natural, social and applied sciences. Administered by the Institute on the Environment, the program is unique in its efforts to engage students from every college at the U of M, offering collaborative opportunities that transcend disciplines. Through these diverse perspectives, students will better understand the values, choices, technologies and policies that create a sustainable world.

In addition to the Minor, countless students, staff, faculty, and community members are also actively engaged in sustainability efforts, and this blog will serve as a resource for all of us to share news, knowledge, ideas, opinions, projects, events, etc.