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Luther College receives national recognition for innovations in caring for creation

Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, was presented a 2012 Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature in recognition of the steps the institution has taken to reduce its carbon footprint. Luther is one of 26 colleges and universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“It was a terrific experience to be recognized,” said Richard Torgerson, president of Luther. “This is truly a team effort. Many people have played a very important part in what we’ve achieved.”
Luther received the award at a June 21-22 ceremony in Washington, D.C. The award is one of 10 presented by Second Nature, the lead organization of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). It honors colleges and universities in five categories: doctorate granting universities, master’s degree granting colleges and universities, baccalaureate colleges, associate/ tribal colleges, and special focus institutions/others.

Luther College President Richard Torgerson and Luther alumna Alycia Ashburn at the ceremony recognizing the college’s work to implement environmental goals and procedures on campus. Photo provided by Alycia Ashburn

Luther was also one of the first colleges to sign on to an agreement between colleges and universities to promote sustainability through teaching and action.

Luther College was one of two colleges awarded in the baccalaureate college category. Torgerson said the award was the result of several years of concerted effort to reduce energy consumption. “We’ve set some pretty aggressive goals for reducing our carbon footprint,” said Torgerson. “I think that climate change is something that we should all be concerned about. It’s part of our mission statement about practicing stewardship of the resources we’ve been given.”

Luther — a leader in its field

Luther was also one of the first colleges to sign on to an agreement between colleges and universities to promote sustainability through teaching and action, and they’ve made carbon neutrality a strategic goal. In the summer of 2011, the school installed a 1.65 megawatt wind turbine on a highly visible bluff near the campus that now produces a third of its electrical energy.
It has also constructed a 3,780 watt solar panel near their library and are working to build a second solar panel project that will power its Baker Village residential complex, which is home to 100 students.
Other energy saving initiatives on campus include the use of biodiesel-powered vehicles, improvements to its recycling and composting practices, and making efforts to purchase 35 percent of food service products locally.

Luther College graduate and director of the climate change campaign for Sojourners, Alycia Ashburn, wrote on the organization’s blog,, “[Luther College has] even started a new solar power project called LEFSE: Luther’s Environmentally, Fiscally, and Socially responsible Edifice. … In addition to receiving this year’s award from Second Nature and the ACUPCC, Luther has also been recognized as one of only eight campuses nationwide to earn an ‘A’ grade on the College Sustainability Report Card.”
Ashburn further explains that Luther has “reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 20 percent since 2003, and has set goals for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, targeting 50, 70, and 100 percent carbon footprint reduction targets over the next 18 years.”
“We want to be able to provide a learning experience for all of our students,” Torgerson said. “We’re hoping that when they go out of here and make their place in society that they will be aware of how they can live more sustainably.”

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