Luther sustainability efforts receive foundation support

Feb. 16, 2012     

Luther College will implement several new sustainability initiatives thanks to a generous grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. The MAC Foundation awarded $383,612 to Luther to support efforts in environmental education and sustainability on campus.

The MAC Foundation grant is supporting sustainability internships, environmental education outreach programs, and the staff coordinator who oversees these efforts. A portion of the funding will be spent outright, and the remainder will supplement endowed funds to ensure the continuation of these programs and internships in the future.

The college also received a five-year grant of $50,000 from the foundation in 2009.

"Luther College is increasingly recognized as a leader in sustainability," said Luther President Richard Torgerson. "This extraordinary investment by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation supports several student-centered initiatives that will benefit current and future Luther students."

To help advance the work of the new Luther Center for Sustainable Communities, the college is expanding its current internship program by creating Luther Sustainability Internships. Student interns will receive support to serve in four key program areas: community energy systems, a wellness and sustainable foods initiative, environmental education outreach, and land stewardship.

The internships will provide firsthand experience working with campus and community members to implement various sustainability initiatives. Most internships will be completed during the summer. 

As part of its environmental education outreach, the college is implementing Luther Sustainability Reps, a peer-to-peer engagement program fostering sustainability literacy and action in the residence halls and campus community.

Sustainability Reps encourage participation in an energy conservation pledge, green room certification program and a national energy competition.

Six Luther students were hired for the 2011-12 academic year to serve as representatives in campus residence halls. The program will expand to 11 students for the 2012-13 academic year.

The college is also launching the Luther Sustainability Grant Fund for students. The goal is to foster and promote sustainable practices by awarding small, competitive grants for the implementation of environmentally responsible, economically beneficial and socially sensible projects. 

Up to $3,500 will be awarded annually for student projects. 

"We at Luther share Margaret Cargill's goal of preserving and promoting the sustainable use of the environment," said President Torgerson. "We are proud to be among the first grant recipients of the MAC Foundation."

Luther has launched numerous sustainability initiatives in pursuit of its goal of reducing the college's carbon footprint by 50 percent.

In 2007, Luther created a sustainability office to guide the college’s sustainability initiatives.

In 2010-11, student workers logged nearly 5,500 hours of work in sustainability programs and projects conducted by 10 project managers, 12 recyclers, and eight gardeners. 

Luther is nationally recognized for its commitment to sustainability, including the promotion of sustainability through its curriculum with faculty development workshops and orientation programs.

The college collaborates with regional and national sustainability organizations to develop curricular and co-curricular course work with student groups and operations. Luther also operates an inter-disciplinary environmental studies program that serves as the hub for sustainability education.

As of fiscal year 2010-11, Luther had reduced its carbon footprint 22 percent. On the basis of its sustainability achievements, Luther was one of only eight campuses nationwide to earn an "A" grade on the College Sustainability Report Card.

In January, Luther was named a finalist in the 2012 Climate Leadership Awards program.  Now in its third year, Climate Leadership Awards are a project of Second Nature, a non-profit sustainability advocacy organization that operates in conjunction with the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

The awards recognize innovation and excellence in climate leadership at signatory institutions of the ACUPCC. Luther is a charter signatory of the organization.

Established in 2006 upon the donor's death, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation supports the broad areas of arts and cultures; environment; relief, recovery and development; aging services; children and families; animal welfare; and planned health.

Cargill, a granddaughter of Cargill Inc.’s co-founder, was philanthropic throughout her lifetime, but she almost always contributed anonymously.

Although Margaret’s assets came from Cargill Inc. stock, there is now no relationship between Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and Cargill Inc. or the Cargill Foundation.

The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation ranks among the 25 largest private grantmakers in the United States.