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Working Toward a Sustainable Future


By Jessica Dalen

The Bemidji State Student Senate was tabling at Lakeside last week for students to take part in a survey to establish a consensus on views of solar energy for the campus as well as inform students of the sustainable energy resources that the school already has in place. 

Students being surveyed were also given this fact sheet explaining what energy is being used and the goal that could be met with solar energy. Photo by Jessica Dalen.

Bemidji State University’s Sustainability Office has been working for over a decade to reduce emissions. Their ambitious goal of carbon neutrality is not unreachable with support from campus and community members.

According to Dr. Anna Carlson, assistant director of the Sustainability Office, BSU’s first involvement in renewable energy started when the school signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in 2008. The commitment stated that over time Bemidji would work on setting goals and improving each year, eventually becoming carbon neutral.

In 2010, BSU got a baseline footprint and starting point for their goal. They wanted to make a 2% reduction by 2015, a 10% reduction by 2020 and eventually, by 2050, become carbon neutral.

“It’s a modest improvement in the short term and pretty dramatic in the long term,” said Carlson.

The Sustainability Office reached their goal in 2015 exceeding it by roughly an extra percentage point. Most of their success has come from upgrading the energy efficiency on campus.  Switching to LED light bulbs was a key to the reductions. The Green Fee that BSU students pay each semester has allowed the Sustainability Office to make these upgrades.

Donate Don’t Dumpster bins across campus allow students, faculty and staff to donate items that they no longer need for someone who may need them. In an effort to reduce the waste on BSU’s campus, The Sustainability Office collects from the bins and has the items available to students at the Free Store in the Lower Union. Photo by Jessica Dalen.

Renewable energy is also helping to shrink BSU’s footprint. Wind energy is currently powering the Lower Hobson Memorial building and has been for over a decade.

Solar power could be in BSU’s sustainable future. Although solar panels on campus would not have a great impact on our carbon footprint, the panels would be a way to showcase BSU’s commitment towards sustainability. Bemidji State would likely have solar panels, if it were not for cost, installation and space issues. Solar gardens are another option for BSU. A solar garden project would include multiple commercial size panels. The project would require BSU to partner with outside organizations. 

Carlson stressed that we must “tackle efficiency” before investing in new technology.  “Reduce your consumption before you even look at offsetting with renewables.”