Sense and Sustainability in Winona

by Amanda Tussing, Sierra Club Intern & Winona State University 2013 Graduate

Winona, Minnesota is a town in the southeastern part of the state surrounded by bluffs along the Mississippi River, with many citizens dedicated to keeping their city clean, sustainable and beautiful. A collaboration of many town organizations, groups, and schools work together to make Winona a better place to live now and for future generations.  Students and residents often come together to stand up for their city when it comes to environmental issues, especially frac sand mining in the area that disrupts residential areas, creates pollution, and destroys natural landscapes.

(Photo credit: Visit Winona, www.visitwinona.com)

Winona State University has been dedicated to creating a sustainable campus for many years. Campus sustainability and environment groups like the Environmental Club, Geology Club, Sustainability committee, and Land Stewardship and Arboretum Committee engage students. In the Fall of 2010, the campus Integrated Wellness Center was build under LEED Gold certified construction, which is the 3rd out of 4 levels of sustainable certification.  In Fall of 2012 the first of the university’s themed student housing opened up that allowed 13 students to live in the sustainable themed house. These students focus on sustainable practices while living in the house, assist in campus environmental projects, and partner to promote sustainable programming on campus. Starting in Spring 2012, the cafeteria began a reusable to-go container program, allowing students to take their lunch with them and return the container when they return to the cafeteria- this program has proven to be a huge success in the past year! In order to save money and be more energy efficient, the school changed 235 failed steam traps as part of their boiler system, saving 20,000 therms, equal to savings of about $85,000 and getting them recognized as having the largest natural gas savings in the state! The university also offers a bike rental program that was started through a proposed grant that is renewed every year by Student Senate for students who don’t have or don’t want to have a car on campus and still need to get around. Every Spring, the Environmental Club hosts Bike Week in April to promote biking and the bike rental program.  For students needing to travel home, a rideboard provides options for students to carpool with others who are from the same area to save money and the environment!

(Photo credit: Winona State University, www.winona.edu)

Sustainability related programs that WSU offers includes Environmental Biology, Chemistry, and Geoscience, as well as the Outdoor Education Adventure Based Leadership certification which is part of the Recreation, Tourist & Theraputic Recreation program. An option for a sustainability minor has also recently been added to the curriculum, teaching students to be efficient and resources with precious resources of today.  In addition to taking environmental related classes, students can be involved in clubs that work to educate others and protect the environment, such as WSU’s E-Club.  In 2011, the Environmental Club was awarded the “Green Grant” as part of the Warrior Grant program.  This grant was provided to start promoting composting on campus.  The club is still currently working on placing the bins in more convenient locations in order use them more efficiently and educate students about composting.

Throughout the city of Winona, other groups and organizations are also working on similar projects to promote sustainability.  Sustain Winona is a collaboration of Winona State University, City of Winona, County of Winona, Winona Area Public Schools, Saint Mary’s University, Minnesota State Southeast Technical, and Cotter High School.  Together they commit to reducing greenhouse gas pollution through the promotion of energy conservation, low carbon energy technology, and pollution prevention strategies.  They recognize that there is a link between climate change and the health, security and growth of our economy, and that addressing climate change needs to be done through sharing experiences, educating our communities and taking aggressive action to address climate change.  Check out their website, sustainwinona.org, to find resources about leading a more sustainable life in Winona, Minnesota, nationally, or globally!

To learn more about green practices, sustainability efforts in Winona, and what you can do to reduce climate change go to www.winona.edu/green, or www.sustainwinona.org/resources!

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