Luther College wins national acclaim for sustainability efforts

DECORAH — Luther College is being recognized as one of the most sustainable campuses in the country, having cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 72% in the past 20 years.

Jon Jensen, director of Luther‘s Center for Sustainable Communities, says they’re on target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

“We’ve got a wind turbine right off the edge of our campus,” Jensen says. “We’ve got almost two megawatts of solar, but really sometimes it’s the little unseen things that make a big difference. Switching out to LED lights, making changes within our HVAC system, lots of little conservation behaviors as well.”

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has named the Decorah college the fourth best baccalaureate institution in the nation for its efforts in sustainability. Jensen says every college and university, private and public, needs to show leadership.

“All of us need to take steps to reduce our use of fossil fuels, to address climate change. That’s important for human health, it’s important for reducing some of the risks to Iowa, and really, to the world,” Jensen says. “But ultimately, I think as educational institutions, we have a role to play in educating the next generation.”

The college is setting an example in the classrooms, in labs, and across the campus, he says, demonstrating how vital it is to plan for a sustainable future. Jensen says Iowa homeowners can do their part, too.

“Looking at ways that you heat and cool your home, and heat pumps, or looking at geothermal,” Jensen says, “and just being mindful of our own actions, turning off the lights when we leave the room, being aware of only conditioning our spaces when we’re there. It’s that mindfulness and being open and exploring alternatives that I think is the most important thing.”

Luther’s wind turbine generates one-third of the college’s electricity, while several large solar arrays also impact the carbon footprint. Jensen says 53% of Luther’s electricity comes from renewable power sources — wind and solar — generated on campus.

The college also has a program called “Caf to Community,” keeping excess cafeteria food out of the landfill and putting it onto the tables of those who need it.