Katy Chapman with Regal the Eagle holding the UN Sustainable Development Goals poster
Katy Chapman and Regal

Sustainability has been a core value of the University of Minnesota Crookston campus for decades and a recent presentation to faculty and staff got people thinking of current sustainable initiatives and contemplating some of their sustainability related “wish lists.” Katy Chapman, UMN Crookston associate professor and director of sustainability, and Shane Stennes, University of Minnesota chief sustainability officer, spoke about system wide sustainability initiatives, current sustainable efforts at UMN Crookston, and sustainability goals that go along with the System’s MPact 2025.

Of the more notable sustainable efforts at UMN Crookston, faculty and staff recently said they have enjoyed the recycling of items from dorms at the end of the semester followed by the “free sale” for incoming students, the use of produce from the greenhouse and gardens for Brown Dining, recycling in Lysaker Gymnasium, student food pantry “Eagles Essentials”, LED lights and water fill stations across campus, green and energy efficient residence halls, and educational opportunities about the environment, equality, and poverty. Their wish list items included adding more electric vehicles to the campus fleet, expanding the gardens areas for students to learn and work, and adding more plants around campus to help further purify the air.  

CSSD Students with a trailer load of recyclable aluminum cans
CSSD Students with aluminum cans for recycling

Chapman has been an associate professor at UMN Crookston since 2008 and took over the sustainability position in 2017. Over the last five years, she and her students in Crookston Students for Sustainable Development (CSSD) created the Sustainable Life Series and helped organize events, created a lounge area for more space for projects and workshops, started a “green team” to encourage correct recycling and making sure the community is informed about what is accepted in the recycling stream, developed a smart recycling center in the Sargeant Student Center, partnered with Northwest Regional Sustainable Partnerships to explore installing solar around the community, partnered with the city to do downtown cleanups, and had an intern placed with the city to advance the community’s progress as a Green Step City. Plus, students are currently collecting data on energy use of buildings across campus so they can come up with a plan to manage energy better.

Students holding produce from the campus garden
Students displaying produce from the campus garden

“The Sustainable Life Series started in Fall 2017 with a purpose of showing everyone on campus regardless of major, discipline, etc. that they had a role to play in sustainability,” explained Chapman. “Topics that have been covered include canning, grafting, fair trade with coffee, tea, and chocolate; cooking with leftovers, ice cream, pizza, various international items, apple pie, and kombucha; natural dyeing, recycling, crafts like knitting, silk making, and painting; solar energy tours, sustainable building design, single-use swaps for cloth vs. disposable diapers, menstrual products, grocery bags, etc.; movie series, and trash pick-ups.”

Other sustainable initiatives across campus include:

M Crookston reusable water bottle
UMN Crookston Reusable Water Bottle Program

Water bottle program – every freshman student gets a reusable water bottle and others can purchase the $2 sticker, participants can earn points with every fill using the Fill It Forward app and help give back to clean water initiatives

Cans for cancer program – Katy and her students sort through the cans, recycle, take the money raised and donate to a student affected by cancer

Green office program – campus offices can take the Google quiz and answer questions about their practices, depending on their practices they will get ranked and be offered simple things to do to improve to the next level

  • Paper towel composting in the bathrooms
  •  “Hit the Lights” messages to remind people to conserve energy by turning off the lights when they leave a room
  • Battery recycling program
  • Bathroom stall stories with sustainable and recycling information
  • Posters with water flows and mapped out paths showing how the city water gets to campus

“Sustainability is an umbrella for lots of things like clean energy and water, responsible consumption, peace and justice, and gender equality,” Chapman stated. “A sustainable world is also an equitable and just world.”

“This summer we’ll be starting our STARS reporting as part of the goal of building a fully sustainable future in the MPact 2025,” she continued. “STARS is a tracking system for many sustainability metrics that includes grounds, acquisition of materials, education, etc. It’s our first time submitting a STARS report and will take about a year to get data collected and submitted. Once you’re ranked, we will know what actions we’ll need to take to achieve goal status which is the goal outlined in the MPact 2020. This information will go into the next phase for our campus which is climate action planning to create a roadmap to not only reaching gold status, but also achieving climate neutrality and a fully sustainable future. Geothermal may be part of our story in the future.”

Story Contact: Katy Chapman - katys@umn.edu - (218) 281-8262