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The four UMC students who are part of the "sustainability squad" and their advisors.

Dan Svedarsky, head of UMC's Natural Resources Department, with students David Walther, Cayla Wieland, Fabien Pommier, and Nate Emery; Joe Massey, campus executive officer; and John Magnuson, associate vice chancellor for facilities and operations.

UMC's sustainability squad

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, September 1, 2005

Can changing the way a university campus looks or manages its environment make a difference to future generations? Yes, say four students at the University of Minnesota, Crookston.

The students, nicknamed the "student sustainability squad" by UMC's Natural Resources Department head Dan Svedarsky, are working on a variety of sustainable development projects that could add to the aesthetic value of the campus, and ultimately save it energy and money.

"In my view, every campus, every facility, and every home is not as sustainable as it could be," says Svedarsky, who is serving as the students' advisor. "There are things that could be done to lessen our energy consumption and make us more sustainable." Sustainability, he explains, "is defined as ways of using resources to provide for the people of today without compromising the needs of future generations to use those resources."

Horticulture students Cayla Wieland and David Walther, who are focusing on environmental landscaping, are developing a set of recommendations on the selection and design of plantings that would require lower maintenance (for example, perennial vs. annual plants) and that could be used to help a professor teach a class (thus reducing the need to travel to an off-campus location to view the plant). The students, who are working closely with facilities management head John Magnuson and lead groundskeeper Jerry Rude, will also identify areas on campus where mowing might be reduced, thus saving energy.

"Our goals are to create a more sustainable landscaping plan that might include adding more recreational areas to the mall for students and the community, creating an arboretum and more perennial gardens for education, and using more low maintenance and native plant materials," says Wieland, a sophomore.

Wieland and Walther have shared their research findings with UMC senior Nate Emery, who is developing small versions of Minnesota's three biomes in the "Nature Nook" outside the Natural Resources Building. These ecological areas will include a tallgrass prairie, a deciduous forest, and a coniferous forest.

"Once developed, these will be no-mow areas that will provide different kinds of plants and animals to observe close by," says Emery, who raised $2,000 in grants for his project.

Sustainable across the U

The University of Minnesota has a history of commitment to sustainability. It offers courses in sustainable development; it uses energy efficient heating and cooling systems; it recycles; it has researchers studying new, environmentally friendly and renewable energy technologies; it's a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.... To learn more about the U's activities and research related to energy, recycling, and transportation, see Sustainable U.

Visiting French graduate student Fabien Pommier analyzed the campus's energy use and considered modifications that could be used in new building designs and on existing building retrofitting. His study, "Energy Audit and Applied Research-based Recommendations for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the University of Minnesota, Crookston" (which he is currently completing in France), will also address recycling patterns, transportation use, and even landscaping modifications. During his research in Crookston, he found a report suggesting that shading the external unit of air conditioners with vegetation has the potential to reduce their energy use by 10 percent.

"In my country, where gasoline is $5 per gallon, we think differently about transportation," says Pommier. "We certainly ride bikes more, carpool, and rely more on mass transit." That said, he is proposing that a commuter bus line could be started from Crookston to Grand Forks for the benefit of students and people who work in one city and live in the other.

The Northwest Regional Partnership of the University of Minnesota, the Blandin Foundation, and the U's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment are supporting Pommier's study.

Pommier and Emery will give a joint presentation on the students' view of sustainable applications at a college campus at UMC's national conference on regional sustainability October 24 and 25. The conference will draw speakers and participants from Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Manitoba, and beyond to examine a broad range of issues, from demographic trends and agriculture to business, the environment, and education.

"The buzz that sustainability has created around campus is a welcome breath and an indicator of change in the right direction," says Emery, who is president of the UMC Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society and also serves on the board of the Northwest Regional Sustainable Partnership. "UMC has the opportunity to lead a regional shift towards a better society by becoming better stewards of our resources."

In July 2004, the U's Board of Regents adopted a Sustainability and Energy Efficiency policy that commits the University to being "a world leader by promoting and demonstrating sustainability and energy efficiency." Additionally, President Bob Bruininks has made the environment and renewable energy a key University-wide priority. The goal of the President's Initiative on the Environment and Renewable Energy is to make the University a leader in renewable energy technologies and help turn Minnesota into a net exporter of energy.

"The work done by these students is laying the groundwork for follow-up work by other students who can take these findings and research them in more depth," says Svedarsky.