ST. PETER — Gustavus Adolphus College is one of six colleges nationwide lauded for its environmentalism by the U.S. Department of Education.
Gustavus was named a "Green Ribbon School" by the Education Department for its wide-ranging commitment to environmental education and sustainable practices.
The St. Peter college's well-known Nobel Conference has frequently focused on sustainability themes in the past decade, including energy, water and food in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The next two conferences, which often attract Nobel Laureates as speakers, will be focused on soil and climate change.
Gustavus' environmental work has gone beyond lectures. The college dedicated a portion of its campus to create the Linnaeus Arboretum in the 1970s and added a 70-acre Coneflower Prairie in 2008. Along with being used for college science courses, the arboretum hosts community groups ranging from grade-schoolers to senior citizens and is open to the public for nature walks.
Following the 1998 tornado that damaged or destroyed numerous buildings on the campus, Gustavus focused on energy and water conservation during the rebuilding process. The result is that power and natural gas consumption has remained steady despite a growing campus, and water consumption has declined.
Two new buildings, Beck and Anderson halls, received platinum and gold LEED certification for their environmentally friendly design and construction.
Gustavus has added two solar electric arrays, three solar thermal arrays and a wind turbine to provide some of the electrical power and heat on campus.
Even the college's cafeteria has been involved. The dining hall began composting food waste at an on-campus composting site in 2013, and the facility allows reusable take-out containers to reduce disposable food containers headed to the landfill.
The college's curriculum, which includes numerous opportunities to study issues related to the environment and sustainability, was also a factor in the "Green Ribbon" recognition.
In addition to the six colleges receiving the award, 46 elementary or secondary schools (including three in Minnesota) and six school districts received Green Ribbons from the U.S. Department of Education.