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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'Green' campus

St. Olaf students, faculty and staff explore environmental sustainability

We hear a lot about the environment these days, from the ozone layer to global warming and oil shortages. As the story of how we choose to care for the environment continues to be written, members of the St. Olaf College community in Northfield, Minn., are working to change the theme from crisis and waste to redemption and sustainability.

“There’s always been an underlying environmental consciousness on campus,” says Gene Bakko, professor of biology and curator of natural lands at St. Olaf.

That consciousness has only risen over the last 25 years. Sitting in Jim Farrell’s “Campus Ecology” class, this is evident. Students toss around thoughts about “living out values” and “developing a standard of loving” rather than a standard of living. One student says: “It’s OK to have some valuable things ... things with meaning ... actually caring about your goods.”

What does that have to do with environmentalism? Farrell, professor of history and director of American studies, points to architect William McDonough who says “we’re not materialistic enough. We aren’t attached to our things.” That’s one of the goals of environmental sustainability, according to a report from St. Olaf’s Sustainability Task Force: “[becoming] very materialistic, respecting and conserving the materials of nature through programs of reusal, reduction, recycling and repair to decrease the amount of waste manufactured and disposed of on campus.”


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