With Earth Day approaching Monday, April 22, the University of St. Thomas this week received five awards or other forms of recognition for its use of wind-generated energy, the energy-saving design of its new student center, and its recycling efforts.

In 2008 Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, along with college and university presidents from across the country, signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. That year the university adopted a Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2035 and to pursue green, sustainable and energy-efficient strategies for all new building projects.

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday recognized St. Thomas as the 2012-2013 conference champion for using more green power than any other college or university in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

St. Thomas won the EPA’s College and University Green Power Challenge by using nearly 33 million kilowatt hours of green power in 2012. Collectively, schools in the MIAC purchased nearly 50 million kilowatt hours of green energy.

Windsource, the green-energy program of Xcel Energy, the nation’s top wind-power utility, announced that St. Thomas is the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the company’s history. In the fourth quarter of 2012, 82 percent of the electric power used on the university’s St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses was purchased from the Windsource program.

The Gabriel Kney organ.

The Gabriel Kney organ.

The nearly 33 million kilowatt hours of wind-generated power used by St. Thomas last year is equivalent to reducing nearly 57 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually. It also is equivalent to the annual output of five large wind turbines or taking 5,380 passenger vehicles off the road.

And after studying the electric motors that power the 2,786-pipe Gabriel Kney organ in the university’s Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, Windsource engineers calculated that the amount of wind energy the university purchases each year would be enough to perform Bach’s 15-minute Toccata and Fugue in D minor a total of 1,323,364 times.

Laura McCarten, Xcel Energy regional vice president, will congratulate St. Thomas and present the university with a six-foot model of a wind turbine during an Earth Week celebration at noon Thursday, April 25, on the John P. Monahan Plaza just outside the Anderson Student Center.

All are welcome to the event. Refreshments will include ice cream and, in keeping with the theme of wind-generated power, there will be kites to fly and Lil’ Dutch Maid Almond Windmill Cookies to eat.

If you are reading this at St. Thomas, 82 percent of the energy to run your computer comes from wind farms like this one near Worthington in southwestern Minnesota. Xcel’s Nobles Wind Farm is powered by one of the best wind resources in the country.

If you are reading this at St. Thomas, 82 percent of the energy to run your computer comes from wind farms like this one near Worthington in southwestern Minnesota. Xcel’s Nobles Wind Farm is powered by one of the best wind resources in the country.

A two-minute video about St. Thomas’ use of wind-generated energy, prepared by Windsource, will be shown on the screen in the main atrium of the Anderson Student Center. You also can see the video here.

A Sustainable Saint Paul Award was presented to St. Thomas Wednesday for its work on the Anderson Student Center.

Mayor Chris Coleman and the St. Paul City Council honored the university and Opus Design Build and Opus AE, the contractor and architect, with the Institutional Green Building Design Award at the beginning of the council’s weekly meeting.

“The Anderson Student Center is a testament to the environmentally conscious steps the University of St. Thomas took in building the new student center, and is a great model for institutional green building design,” the city said in honoring the project.

The $66 million, 225,000-square-foot center, located at the corner of Summit and Cretin avenues, opened in January 2012 and last summer was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

In designing the Anderson Student Center, Opus and St. Thomas participated in Xcel’s Energy Design Assistance Program that helps owners and design teams evaluate energy-conservation strategies. While conservation measures initially were more expensive, it is expected they will provide a projected annual savings of $62,000, with an estimated payback of about four years.

The Recyclemania Tournament, a friendly national and state competition meant to promote recycling and reduce waste at colleges and universities, announced winners on Friday.

In state competition, St. Thomas placed second overall behind the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and was first in four of seven categories. St. Thomas was first in overall pounds of recycled material (116,602 pounds), and first in the per-capita categories for paper, cardboard and bottles and cans.

The Princeton Review on Tuesday announced that St. Thomas is included in its fourth annual “Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition.”  The free guide, according to Princeton Review, “profiles 320 schools in the United States and two in Canada that demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.”

All Earth Week activities at St. Thomas are free and open to the public. They are:

  • All week, April 22-26: Tours of the greenhouse, located on the south side of Owens Science Hall on the south campus, will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday of Earth Week. The tours will feature projects of St. Thomas students, staff and faculty. You can see videos about the projects here, here and here. Free garden-soil analyses are available for the first 20 visitors.
  • Monday, April 22: Read about Earth Day here.
  • Tuesday, April 23: A Green Research Symposium will be held at noon in Room 126 (first-floor auditorium) of the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts.
  • Tuesday, April 23: The St. Thomas Green Team will hold a B.Y.O.B (bring your own bottle) event during the noon convo hour in Anderson Student Center. Participants can play water pong; winners receive reusable water bottles.
  • Tuesday, April 23: An interdisciplinary panel discussion of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring will be held at 3:30 p.m. in Room 108 (the leather room) of O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center. Refreshments will be provided.
  • Tuesday, April 23: BEAST (Bicycle Enthusiasts at St. Thomas) will host its annual neighborhood bike ride during Earth Week over the noon convo hour. The ride starts at John P. Monahan Plaza on the university’s lower quadrangle and is open to anyone with a bike and helmet.
  • Wednesday, April 24: BEAST (Bicycle Enthusiasts at St. Thomas) will offer free bike tune-ups and repairs for the St. Thomas community. Tune-ups start at 3 p.m. in the BEAST “lair,” located in the basement of Loras Hall on the university’s south campus.
  • Thursday, April 25: Green research posters will be on display all day Thursday in Anderson Student Center. The posters will depict environmental research conducted by St. Thomas students.
  • Thursday, April 25: A Windsource celebration will be held over the noon convo hour on John P. Monahan Plaza. St. Thomas will receive a six-foot-tall wind-turbine model and will be recognized for being the biggest user of green energy generated by Xcel’s Windsource program. The university also will receive a plaque from the Environmental Protection Agency for winning the College and University Green Power Challenge in the MIAC. There will be displays, kites, ice cream and Lil’ Dutch Maid Almond Windmill Cookies. All are welcome.
  • Saturday, April 27: The 21st annual spring cleanup of the east bank of the Mississippi River will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers should meet at the monument area at the intersection of Mississippi River Boulevard and Summit Avenue. The annual rite of spring is co-sponsored by the UST Green Team, Recycling Team and the Department of Natural Resources Adopt-a-River program.

A list of St. Thomas Earth Week events can be found here.

Wind turbines at work near Lake Benton in southwestern Minnesota. The town calls itself “the original wind power capital of the Midwest.” The blades are 122 feet long and the turbines are 262 feet tall, nearly as tall as a football field is long.

Wind turbines at work near Lake Benton in southwestern Minnesota. The town calls itself “the original wind power capital of the Midwest.” The blades are 122 feet long and the turbines are 262 feet tall, nearly as tall as a football field is long.