Augsburg College, a small, urban institution located in South Minneapolis, doesn’t fit the usual profile for a sustainable college. Generally, only institutions with space to build their own turbines can take advantage of clean energy initiatives. But the National Wildlife Federation reports that Augsburg College is already 100 percent wind powered. What’s more, they recently purchased an agreement allowing the college to be 100 percent emissions-free by 2019.
Augsburg College has 3,785 students and 18 major buildings. But with such little physical room for growth, it was originally thought that clean energy would be impossible for the urban college. In March 2008, students decided that they would pay $14.75 per student per semester towards buying wind-generated energy for the campus. This decision made the college the largest purchaser of wind power from Xcel's Wind Source, which in turn is the largest provider of wind power in the nation.
A team of students determined that using 100 percent wind-generated electricity would cost the college about $140,000 more than what they were already spending. To help raise finances, the student body voted to add an additional $10 from each Day College student's activity fee towards clean energy. This made the Day-student contribution around $72,000. Alex Hoselton was the college’s day-student body vice president at the time of the vote. As he told the NWF, "Our strategy was to raise more than half of the estimated funds to leverage commitment from the administration and the Board of Regents through our own unequivocal pledge.” Luckily, the administration decided to cover the remaining costs to make the switch. The NWF estimates that producing this electricity using fossil fuels would have emitted 23 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
As the NWF points out, this move by the college has set a new precedence for other students to do that same. As Hoselton concludes, "It's a moral issue for me. We say we need to be better stewards of the environment and better neighbors. If we aren't living that out, then we aren't completing our mission. An extra cost is marginal compared to what it means to be an institution with integrity."
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