Center for Sustainable Communities
November 20th, 2017
Caf to Community Program celebrates four years and 50,000 pounds
Happy fourth anniversary to the Cafeteria to Community Program! Four years ago this program was developed through a partnership between students, the Center for Sustainable Communities and Dining Services to find a good home for excess food from the college cafeteria. Twice a week paid student coordinators work with volunteers from campus and the community to package food that is delivered to the Decorah Community Food Pantry the following day. Since the program started in 2013, nearly 50,000 pounds of food have been donated, and over 600 volunteer hours have been logged! The Center for Sustainable Communities would like to thank Luther College Dining Services, the Decorah Community Food Pantry, and all volunteers who make this partnership program a success!
Sustainability House: 61% reduction in electricity usage and 100% powered by the sun
Sustainability House residents were interested in learning about their personal electricity consumption and what could be done to minimize their carbon footprint as a house. A unique feature of the Sustainability House is that it hosts a 4kW solar pv array that was installed in 2011. This sustainable energy feature provides the opportunity for residents to learn more about electricity generation and how it varies by season and time of day. Though this array is fairly small compared to many household arrays (especially considering that ten students live in the Sustainability House), residents took it as a challenge to consume within the means of what their solar panels could produce. Over the 2016-2017 school year, Sustainability House residents, led by two student Energy Educators, monitored the electricity production and consumption for the house through devices that were installed on house meters. 

Electricity information is available online and accessible to all house members, but a low tech solution to sharing data seemed to be most effective. Energy Educators tracked production and consumption information daily using a dry erase marker on a window in a common space. Their theory was that residents would be more likely to engage with this information if it was placed in a highly visible location. Results of a survey conducted at the end of the year demonstrate that every member of the house reported positive change in their behavior due to having more information available to them. Energy Educators empowered housemates to learn and make adjustments to their own lifestyle to minimize their personal consumption but made it a point to never impose behavior changes upon their peers.

As it turns out, this increased education, knowledge and awareness of usage paid off! Over the 2016-17 academic year, Sustainability House residents consumed significantly less electricity than the previous year. Meter readings and electricity bills confirm that the house used less electricity than they produced, meaning electricity came 100% from the sun! Good work, Sustainability House!

Wondering how much electricity you consume at work or at home? Now you can find out! Kill-a-watt meters are available for checkout at the circulation desk at Preus Library. Meters can be plugged into personal electronic devices to track how much electricity is being used. Once you figure out how much electricity you use, see if there are easy ways that you can lessen your usage. Can you unplug toasters, microwaves and other kitchen devices when not in use? What would it look like to use a power strip for electronics in your office? What's the impact of changing settings so your screen goes black when in sleep mode rather than a screen saver cycling through? The possibilities are endless, and every little bit saves both carbon and pennies. 
From organics to true trash: a tale of the Union Dock dumpster
Waste audits are one of the best ways for us to learn about the composition of our waste stream. Twice a year, Zero Waste Educators complete a comprehensive waste audit of the Union Dock dumpster. Students remove all contents from the dumpster and sort into various piles according to what is recyclable, what is c ompostable and what is "true trash." 
The "true trash" pile consists of items that currently would not have a home in any of our other recycling or composting waste streams on campus. A Fall 2016 waste audit concluded that 26% of the dumpster contents were "true trash," including items like paper towels (2%), glass (1.6%), food related packaging (9.5%) and other (12.7%. Organics made up nearly 70% of the dumpster. What this means is that only 26% of the contents of that dumpster on that day were supposed to be there and that we had much opportunity for waste stream improvement.

Through the generous support of a DNR Solid Waste Alternatives Program grant, a food waste pulper was installed in the cafeteria dish room in December 2016. The pulper pulverizes food scraps while removing 90% of the moisture. This makes organic materials more compact and easier to transport to the farm, while also improving compostability of the materials. All post consumer plate scraps are now processed through the pulper, as is much prep waste. At the same time, Dining Services staff have become even more diligent about ensuring that all prep waste ends up in a compost bucket to the point that some days nearly 1,000 pounds of compost is being delivered out to the farm. When we consider that 90% of the water weight of some of these materials have already been removed through pulping, this is a significant volume of organic material being diverted from the waste stream. 

Given the changes that have taken place over the last year, we were excited to dig into the Union Dock dumpster this Fall to see what changes we might find.  A waste audit conducted in Spring 2017 after the pulper was in operation sho wed that "true trash" had increased to 64% of the dumpster contents while organics had dropped to 24%. 
A follow-up audit was conducted this Fall and the findings are impressive as 
compared to last year. Whereas in Fall 2016, 70% of dumpster contents were organics, now more than 75% of the dumpster consists of "true trash," with organics dropping to a mere 12% of the total. 

When organic materials are put in a landfill they break down and produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Given that solid waste makes up 10% of Luther's carbon footprint in any given year, it is important that we continue to focus on waste reduction as part of our carbon neutrality strategy, with a special focus on decreasing the amount of organic materials we are sending to the landfill (both because of weight and because of carbon impact).

Another waste audit will be conducted this spring. We look forward to watching percentages of true trash rise as levels of organics in the waste stream continue to decrease.
Decorah Power: Stewardship, Faith, & Community Decision-making
Decorah Power, a non-profit citizens group investigating the formation of a Decorah Municipal Electric Utility, is on the tail-end of their learning series. Come out for their second-to-last presentation in the series!  On  Monday, November 27th you are invited to come learn from Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, Executive Director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light. Susan will be presenting at City Hall at Noon and in Valders 362pm at 7pm. 
This presentation is part of Decorah Power's Learning Series - a series of events to help the community better understand the opportunities and challenges that would be involved in a Decorah municipal utility.
More info about the learning series.

Indoor Farmers Market
Do you miss weekly trips to the Farmer's Market for fresh produce, meat, eggs, baked goods, and crafts? Are you longing for a reason to walk downtown and experience community and visit with local vendors? You're in luck! The popular Winneshiek County Farmers Market is hosting a special Indoor Market for 2 days only! Visit the Danan Lansing Building at the Decorah Fairgrounds from 8:30-11:30AM on December 2nd and December 16th. Hope to see you there!
Sustainability Tip
#optoutside this Black Friday! Grab some friends and family members and take a hike before coming home to gobble up some delicious Thanksgiving leftovers. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017 is Small Business Saturday - a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. Please join the SBA and organizations across the country in supporting your local small business by shopping locally this holiday season. Small businesses keep your tax dollars local, create sustaining jobs for community residents, and give back to the community at large. See the map on US Small Business Association's website to find stores participating in your hometown!
Questions or comments?
The Center for Sustainable Communities is always looking for ways to improve our publications. If you have any questions, concerns, general comments, or story ideas for future newsletters, please email at any time. Thank you!
This newsletter is provided by the Center for Sustainable Communities, which coordinates all sustainability initiatives at Luther College.  The mission of the Center is to promote sustainability and be a catalyst for change on campus and in the region.  For more information on sustainability initiatives at Luther and the outreach work of the Center for Sustainable Communities, please visit:
Upcoming Events
Tuesday, November 21st
Iowa Learning Farms, along with Upper Iowa Watershed Management Authority, Winneshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), will host a cover crop field day. The event is free and open to the public and includes a complementary meal. Reservations are encouraged. 
Monday, November 27th 
"Stewardship, Faith, & Community Decision-making"
Monday, November 27th
Student Spotlight
Sam Tollefson '18

Sam is a senior Environmental Policy and Political Science double major from Burnsville, Minnesota. She got her start working for the Center for Sustainable Communities two years ago as a Recycling and Composting team member. Sam currently works as a student gardener. Her favorite part about her job is having access to delicious fresh food that she helped to grow!
Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa
Conservation Corps is hiring for many different position from field specialists to youth program leaders.
Program Manager - UNI Center for Energy and Environmental Education 
The Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa is hiring for a position to manage their urban pesticide reduction initiative, Good Neighbor Iowa.
Sales and Warehouse Manager - Iowa Food Hub 
Iowa Food Hub is looking for a Sales and Warehouse Manager to work at their facility in West Union.
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