- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006


In the shadow of Carleton College’s majestic wind turbine, Daniel Pulver has cooked up an idea for creating even more renewable energy: turning used cafeteria oil into fuel for cars.

Across the Cannon River at St. Olaf College, Dayna Burtness grows pesticide-free food for the school cafeteria. Wasted food goes to a composter so that it can be used in the campus’ fields and planting beds.

Carleton and St. Olaf are among hundreds of colleges and universities across the country trying to be more self-sustaining to stretch budgets and conserve energy.

But the green-mindedness also is spurring old-time school rivalries such as the friendly competition between the two schools in Northfield, a rural town of 18,000 people roughly 40 miles south of the Twin Cities.

“The vision … is to make sustainability the foundation of everything we do for education,” said Jen Everett, an assistant philosophy professor at Carleton who teaches an environmental-ethics class. “We need to graduate students who are going to be radically different kinds of thinkers than we were trained to be.”

More than 600 schools in the U.S. and Canada have sustainability efforts under way, said Judy Walton, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

“We all feel now that the field is really exploding,” she said.

Oberlin College in Ohio monitors electricity and water use in dormitories, and students eventually will be able to track their dorms’ use. Cochise College in Douglas, Ariz., recently broke ground on a solar field that is expected to save $15,000 annually in heating and cooling costs.

At Smith College in Northampton, Mass., a $5.7 million cogeneration plant is expected to save $870,000 in fossil fuels and electricity. The project includes one generator to produce electricity and another to capture heat that is normally wasted.

The 5,000 students attending St. Olaf and Carleton have the advantage of living close enough to each other to compare notes.

Carleton began operating a 1.65-megawatt wind turbine in 2004, and St. Olaf is building one of similar size this summer — though plans were in the works even before Carleton’s began operating.

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