In the decade since then-President Father Dennis Dease signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2008, nearly every aspect of life on the university campus has been touched in some way by St. Thomas’ commitment to sustainability. There’s the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) work tying sustainability into curriculum; the ongoing work of Facilities Management and Dining Services to cut the university’s carbon footprint and create more sustainable, everyday systems; and the many options the Division of Student Affairs provides, like the Sustainability Living Learning Community, that help students live sustainably in every element of their lives as Tommies, including in the legacy of their time at St. Thomas through the Impact Project.
“Contributing to our students’ and alumni’s knowledge of commitment to sustainability, as well as ensuring the university’s adoption of sustainable practices, is central to our mission of advancing the common good,” President Julie Sullivan said. “We work to ensure that all humans across the planet today have access to the unblemished richness of God’s creation. We also recognize that the common good extends to future generations and work to be good stewards for those who follow us.”
St. Thomas recently received a silver STARS rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. The recognition signifies a large step for St. Thomas in recognizing how much work supporting sustainability has already been done, and where more work can continue to grow.
Click on one of the images below to check out some of the many examples of sustainability coming to life across St. Thomas, and read more in depth about the university’s efforts here.
Members of the Sustainability Living Learning Community talk about the results of their research during a soils lab at Hidden Falls Park. Students in the sustainability LLC live together and take sustainability-designated courses.
Mechanical engineering student Zachary Emond poses for a photo with the microgrid research station headed by engineering professor Greg Mowry. A $2.1 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund is allowing Mowry and his students to research components used for alternative-energy microgrids.
Armed with a $500,000 grant over five years from the National Science Foundation, St. Thomas biology faculty Chip Small and his students are digging into research surrounding urban agriculture. Their work brings together community partners throughout the Twin Cities and contributes to a better understanding of what sustainable agriculture within cities can look like.
Student Alice Ready flies a drone at the Weaver Dunes near Kellogg, MN. College of Arts and Sciences geography professor Paul Lorah and his students are mapping areas of the Weaver Dunes with a drone in order to study the effects of prairie restoration efforts. The research is funded in part by a sustainability grant, one of countless marriages between one of St. Thomas’ sustainability designated courses and community partners.
BrightSide Produce employee Steven Fuller organizes produce while making weekend deliveries to neighborhood stores for BrightSide Produce in Minneapolis. BrightSide, a project conceived at St. Thomas and run with the help of students, brings healthy food (some of which comes from the St. Thomas stewardship garden) to communities in food deserts.
Students from St. Thomas’ Dougherty Family College conduct class within the St. Paul campus’ Stewardship Garden, a bountiful resource for research and community impact.
A bee collects pollen from a flower in the south campus Stewardship Garden. St. Thomas is also home to a pollinator path, sprawls across the St. Paul campus and is made up of around a dozen sites with plants to attract pollinators like bees or butterflies.
Students walk along the lower quad amidst trees in autumn color. The Anderson Student Center rises behind them, one of several buildings on campus to receive LEED’s Gold Certification.
New solar panels on the roof of the Anderson Student Center are one of dozens of changes across the university to improve its infrastructure. Facilities management and dining services have enacted a huge range of changes in recent years to make their practices more sustainable, as well.
From left, Cheol-Hong Min, School of Engineering faculty, and Peter Farley and Andrew Ryan, both Engineering majors, work on the Farmbot, attached to an arm over a bed of lettuce in the Biology Department Greenhouse in Owens Science Hall. The Farmbot is an automated farming robotic tool guided by GPS. The project is a collaboration of several St. Thomas academic departments, including the School of Engineering, Chemistry and Biology.
Students Elliott Magnuson (Biology) and Heidi Hill (Biology) work with Professor Kay in the University of St. Thomas Stewardship Garden.