President Jenifer K. Ward signs Luther College Climate Action Plan

Luther College continues to gain national recognition for its trailblazing work in sustainability. Building on those efforts, President Jenifer K. Ward has signed and approved Luther College’s updated Climate Action Plan. 

“Climate change is a global problem and a multigenerational challenge,” says President Ward. “Luther College’s educational mission calls us to be good stewards of the earth and responsible citizens. Together our actions matter, and we aim to model what stewardship looks like by continuing progress on our concrete plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, operate more efficiently, and use renewable energy to heat, cool, and power our campus.”

            The Climate Action Plan focuses on realistic changes that need to happen in order for Luther to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, a plan initiated by President Richard Torgerson in 2007 and reaffirmed by Luther’s Board of Regents in 2018. 

“When we drafted our first Climate Action Plan back in 2009, we were not sure how we would achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and make sustainability a part of every student’s learning experience. A little over a decade later, we are more than halfway to our goal and we have a plan for how to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Jim Martin-Schramm, director of the Center for Sustainable Communities. 

Martin-Schramm played a key role in updating and further developing this action plan that includes details for greenhouse gas reduction on Luther’s campus, an outline of the college’s Energy Master Plan and opportunities for outreach through the academic curriculum and community development. 

“Updating our Climate Action Plan was relatively easy and fun because we have so many great stories to tell,” said Martin-Schramm. “For example, Baker Village is the first area of the Luther campus that is now carbon neutral and we have as much solar generating capacity installed on campus as we have in our wind turbine.”

Luther, as a whole, has worked hard to live up to its commitments in sustainability and those efforts are being recognized. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recently ranked Luther #8 in baccalaureate colleges in the United States in their 2020 Sustainable Campus Index. One of the reasons for this high ranking is its progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have been able to reduce Luther's greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing campus operating costs. For example, we use 38% less electricity today than we did back in 2003-04 despite building the state-of-the-art Sampson Hoffland Laboratories and air-conditioning the Main Building and Valders Hall of Science. On the academic side, 40% of Luther’s courses qualify as sustainability course offerings and 75% of Luther’s academic departments have course offerings in this area,” said Martin-Schramm. 

To date, Luther College has reduced its overall carbon footprint by nearly 60% from its peak emissions in fiscal year 2004.  

“I’m hopeful because this plan could be the key to achieving our goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, and I’m proud that our commitments to sustainability have been supported and maintained by three presidents and the Board of Regents spanning over fifteen years,” said Martin-Schramm.

To learn more about Luther’s updated Climate Action Plan, and to read it in full, visit luther.edu/sustainability/energy-climate/climate-action/plan.

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu. 

President Ward signs Luther College's Climate Action Plan
President Ward and Jim Martin-Schramm