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Iowa Lakes receives Green award

By Staff | May 7, 2017

Iowa Lakes Community College received word Thursday that it has been designated as a 2017 U.S. Department of Education Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee. Iowa Lakes is the only educational institution in the state of Iowa to receive this honor in 2017.

“We are very honored to be named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee,” said Valerie Newhouse, President of Iowa Lakes.

She is proud of those who have worked to make the college environmentally green.

“The environmental efforts woven throughout Iowa Lakes have indeed been a work in progress. Students, employees and the Board of Trustees have worked together to implement a variety of initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. And, our efforts are reflected in the classroom as students take interdisciplinary courses and general education courses which incorporate sustainability.”

Just nine colleges from across the country were selected for this 2017 honor.

Jennie Knudson, planning and development grant writer, compiled the data for submission.

“Iowa Lakes incorporates sustainability education into numerous college programs, designs learning centers for maximum resource efficiency, and enhances each college campus with updated products that reduce environmental impact and improve health,” said Knudson.

Iowa Lakes was the first community college in the state to sign the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.

The institution strives to align decision making with its commitment to the College Climate Action Plan. All new construction meets or exceeds LEED Silver standards.

Examples include the Sustainable Energy Resources and Technologies Center which was constructed with geothermal renewable energy systems, controlled lighting and heating systems, 10 percent recycled content and recyclable building materials.

That’s in addition to the college’s Vestas wind turbine which generates just short of $130,000 worth of electricity annually which covers more than 70 percent of what is used in electricity in the educational buildings on the Estherville campus.

The college doesn’t stop there, according to Scott Stokes, vice president of administration.

“Paperless communications are encouraged and any copies printed are set to automatic dual-sided printing,” Stokes said. “Recycling bins are located on all five campuses for plastic, paper and aluminum cans. And, water fountains include water bottle filling stations, reducing plastic bottled water usage.”

The college’s garden, located on the Emmetsburg campus, was cited for providing fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits which are used in the Dining Services and served to students, faculty, staff and visitors. Some 11,000 pounds of food are produced each year.

That also ties into Iowa Lakes’ healthy school program. Events are held tri-annually during in-service gatherings with mini-sessions in health and wellness as well as financial awareness sessions.

The college uses natural or green certified products when available for campus and housing cleaning.

Obviously, sustainability education is a main core through numerous college programs.

Construction Technology revolves around green building processes. Environmental Studies and Water Quality and Sustainable Aquatic Resources address environmental stewardship through education. HVAC, Electrical and Engineering Technology coursework introduces students to the concepts of finding uses for excess energy to be routed to areas which can use it. Wind Energy and Turbine Technology courses provide study in wind power generation and distribution in addition to operations and maintenance.

Moreover, students are involved in maintaining the beauty of the five-county area by helping to assist in cleaning up area lakes, roadsides and community. In Clay County, Iowa Lakes soccer players have helped at the Spencer Transfer Station in an effort to improve the public’s knowledge on recyclables. Recently, women’s basketball players and other Spencer campus students assisted with a similar effort on Earth Day.

Looking toward the future, college President Newhouse expects even more.

“We plan to continue the momentum when our vertical axis Chava prototype goes ‘online’ at the college farm later this summer providing a great deal of the electricity to power the beef and swine operations. In addition, we continually look for new options to improve our environment.”

The three pillars on which the award is decided include reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and teaching effective environmental education.

Iowa Lakes will be officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education at a ceremony in mid-July in Washington, D.C.