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Competetive Sustainability: Luther v Wartburg

posted on March 27, 2009 at 11:00 AM


One of the creators of the compact fluorescent light bulb, Abe Rosenfeld, calculates that since 1845 the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar’s worth of Gross Domestic Product in the U.S. has declined by an average of one percent a year.  Rosenfeld, who is also founder of the Center for Building Science at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, reasons reducing energy consumption by 2% year would require minimal effort and little loss to the quality of American life.  But the benefits of such conservation would be enormous and sustainable.  

            Some of Iowa’s independent colleges are working on conservation on multiple fronts.

Normally the competition between Luther and Wartburg is conducted on the athletic fields. Each team’s season is considered a success if it is victorious over the rival Lutheran school. .

Kristin Youngmeyer: “I think Wartburg’s got a lot of work to do, we’re going to beat them.”

But now, the rivalry is leaving the arena and entering a different competitive venue --  the dorms, the classroom and everywhere else the two schools use energy.

 The two campuses spent the month of February competing in an energy challenge, striving to do more with less.

Kristin Youngmeyer/Luther Student: “I've learned how to change simple habits in my daily life.  From what I didn't know was phantom load was.  Which is appliances that you know take up energy.  So, just my room I've attached those to a power strip and you can just turn those off when you're not using them and that way you know you're not wasting energy.”

The school with the biggest reduction from year ago levels wins.  The competition ended in a ‘tie’.

Even light switches are inspiring students as they try to change the campus culture.

Megan Selvig/Luther Student: “It's amazing that you can put up all the posters you want and you can table all you want, but people can walk right by it and it's not until you get them face to face and you tell them why this is important and how they change and what they can do that that makes a difference.”

Luther began embracing energy conservation years ago with the construction of a new dorm that utilized a geo-thermal heating and cooling system. That technology has also been employed in a new science building.

 An energy audit helped identify needed changes. Now there are electric vehicles on campus, a parking lot that’s free, but far-removed from campus to cut down on vehicle traffic.   

Megan Selvig helped measure Luther’s carbon footprint for two summers and found that the school now emits 39 million pounds of carbon, a 15% drop from six years ago.  The school’s effort to reduce its carbon output means it is spending about 200-thousand dollars less for energy than it was four years ago.  

Mike Lubberden/Central College Director of Facilities Planning and Management: “from the green roof -- This will be a, a patio that building occupants will be able to come out and enjoy the outdoors and look out onto this green roof which serves as a very green component of this building.”

Sustainability is also a theme Central College in Pella has embraced for the last ten years. The school is venturing beyond energy audits. 

Mike Lubberden/Central College: “These green facilities have really worked to kind of wake us up culturally.  Our campus culture is started to say hey there is something special about these facilities you know?

It is hoped a new building on campus will be the first in the state to meet the platinum, that is the  highest, standard of LEED ,or Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design criteria. 

 When the building opens in time for classes next fall, a new part of the academic curriculum will be housed here. Each student will have an academic experience with sustainability.

Professor Jim Zaffiro/Central College: “It's this triple bottom line notion of ecological integrity, economic justice, and social justice and human rights, and so there are many, many ways that you can put those pieces together and they're not all necessarily things that happen in a classroom situation either.  They're, they're hands on, they're out in the community.”

Just like Math 107 or English 150, Sustainability 101 is coming to Central classrooms next fall. Students will now be required to take classes in sustainability as it will be part of the school’s curriculum.

 This new building is not the first “green” construction for Central. Since 1999 the campus has taken on LEED principles when building new. The science building is one example, another is McKee Hall a new dorm on campus. Part of this building’s dorm life is a constant competition between living areas or pods.

 Real-time stats on the web document how much energy is being used in each room, floor and entire dorm. 

Bree Castle/Central Student: “We learned that even living-- leaving like little things plugged in even if you're not using it really draws a lot of energy.”

Senior Bree Castle makes sure her stereo is unplugged in her living area. The TV is off when not in use, even cleaning products are environmentally friendly. The toilet uses less water and other high-efficiency appliances are in use in the room.

The environmental science major is the lead information source for her roommates.

Bree: “I had to monitor energy with certain appliances and so I was more aware of things -- like what kilowatts it took up and what happens when you leave thing plugged in, and so I think I -- even some of the girls have come around to me and asked questions about does this take this much energy?  What does this do.”

McKee Hall’s design is LEED friendly from their computer lab to even outdoor appearance where the shelter over the bike racks contains  solar panels.

Changing culture was easy at Central because the institution from the president’s office, to faculty, staff and to students are all on-board with sustainable practices.  The goal now is to expand the efforts beyond the campus.

 Jim Zaffiro: “If we train teachers, every one of those teachers is going into their classroom and having that same catalyzing affect, awareness raising affect, training, and inspiring kinds of effects on more and more young people.  So, in some ways it's bottom up but it's also top down.” 

Tags: colleges education Energy/Environment Iowa students sustainability