As you approach Decorah from really any direction, Luther’s big wind turbine is an obvious landmark towering above all the other structures in the area. The wind turbine is a very obvious testament to Luther’s commitment to the environment, but it is actually part of a much larger fabric of goals. The school has a climate action plan that requires us to be carbon neutral by 2030. In 2015, we achieved our benchmark goal of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions and we are on track to continue to meet our goals.
Luther goes about energy conservation in various ways. Luther has replaced many lights on campus with LED lighting that uses less energy than normal incandescent bulbs and even compact fluorescents. Luther has also installed insulation for many of the pipes on campus (this investment will be paid back in less than four years). Additionally, Luther has installed day-lighting sensors so that we do not use energy to lighten places that are already lit by the sun! The shuttles that run to nearby cities before and after breaks result in more people carpooling—resulting in less carbon emissions from vehicles. Clotheslines are made available in all residents halls and students are also regularly encouraged to use the “bright colors” setting on the washing machines (which reduces energy used for water heating). Luther also offers free bike rentals for students, encouraging us to bike into town rather than drive. Many energy sources on campus have been replaced with renewable alternatives. For example, our wind turbine and solar fields (there are several around campus) provide electricity to campus buildings and various residential buildings and several campus vehicles that are electric or run on biofuel. Baker Village (housing for upperclass students) is heated and cooled using geothermal resources. Additionally, it is sometimes cheaper for Luther to pay for carbon offsets elsewhere instead of doing local conservation projects on campus. 13.4% of Luther’s carbon reductions have been through purchasable renewable offsets that sponsor carbon being taken out of the air elsewhere.
Even though many of the easiest/cheapest methods for carbon reduction have been utilized already, Luther has many more options going forward. Many of the projects listed above (LED lighting, electric vehicles, etc.) can still be significantly expanded in order to further reduce emissions. There are many prospective new projects as well. Starting in the fall of 2017 there will be an app available for Baker Village residents that will allow students to track their energy usage. This is a step towards a Luther where all students can hold themselves accountable for their energy usage which will hopefully reduce Luther's overall usage. Luther also hopes to expand our solar energy resources to increase our renewable energy output.
Even if you are not an environmental studies student, living in a community that takes environmental issues seriously is extremely valuable. As we move into a world more regularly and severely impacted by the warming climate, learning about these processes and how we can lessen our contribution to the eco-crisis is an integral part of becoming responsible and mindful citizens.